I haven't been to Schenectady, but hearing Blake Christiana sing about it makes me ache for all that it is--and all that it isn't. The tune about Christiana's beleaguered hometown sits at the emotional center of Come On In, the third effort by Yarn, Brooklyn's own hillbilly outfit.
Much has been made of Yarn's being owned and operated by city slickers. A country band in Hipsterville? But it should be little surprise that a place that's become a cultural Mecca for young people of the artistic persuasion has produced a group like Yarn, whose first two albums grabbed some serious (and deserved) critical praise. With Come On In, the band will undoubtedly grab itself some more.
From one end to the other, Come On In traffics in the loose feel and emotional authenticity of a Saturday-night living room jam. In "New York City Found," the band celebrates life in the greatest city on Earth with a fiddle sawin', spoon-tappin', snare-rattlin' raveup. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Blake Christiana's molasses-in-January vocals and Andrew Hendryx' laid-back mando crawl their way through the forlorn "I Wanted to Get High." A comparison to vintage David Bromberg wouldn't be out of order here.
Yarn's sound has also been compared to the work of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, no doubt due in part to Christiana's nasally vocals and Andrew Hendryx' grassy mando riffs. But the band's capable of a more rocking sound, too. The bad-breakup tune "Down on Your Luck" takes the energy a little higher, courtesy some jammy fiddle breaks and Rod Hohl's twangy Telecaster. And Hohl rips through "I Gotta Go" with pedal steel licks and some chicken pickin' that are downright honky tonk.
Like the Bottle Rockets, Yarn's at its best when checking the pulse of America the Ordinary. Like "Schenectady," "Strikes and Gutters" and "The Bars Don't Look Too Friendly Tonight" give us life through the eyes of the underdog, with all the self-doubt and longing that implies. If they don't hit you in the heart, you haven't been there. In the end, it don't matter where they're from. These boys are for real.