STRANGERS - THE YOUNG'UNS
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2018
- Artist: The Young'Uns
- Release Date: 29th September, 2017
- Genre: Folk
- Record Label: Hereteu Records
- Tracks: 10
- Website: http://www.theyounguns.co.uk/
- Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
The multi-award winning The Young'Uns are one of the national treasures of the UK Folk world. Blending hard hitting social commentary with high quality songwriting & harmony singing coupled with sharp, observed and infectious humour. Their highly anticipated fourth album 'Strangers' is a concept album based on real inspiring people. Highlighting the courage, power and inspiration that comes from the stories of others. It is very true that 'Strangers are just friends you haven't meet yet'. Please also check out the Young'Un's videos where they meet the people that inspired the original stories. I have included a couple for you below.
'Strangers', begins with a rousing unaccompanied version of Maggie Holland’s 'A Place Called England' written in 1990's and properly a more resonant and important song now than when it was originally written. It is the album’s only cover and I think a very well-chosen one. It perfectly sets the tone, acting as a statement of intent. It provides a stark picture of Britain whose recent past has been plagued by the problems caused by the excesses of big business, ineffective politic figures and the misplaced patriotism. But the underlying feel of the song is a positive 'call to action', full of hope, passion and a sense of belonging. 'So rise up, George and wake up Arthur, time to rouse out from your sleep' All the songs that follow are written by the very talented Sean Cooney, who brings to life a rich and vibrant collection of inspiring real life characters.
The second accompanied song 'Ghafoors Bus' celebrates the inspirational humanitarian work of Teeside grandad Ghafoor Hussain who in the winter of 2015 spend thousands of pounds of his own money in buying a truck and converting it into a travelling kitchen to feed refugees across Europe. In December 2015, he was serving an incredible three thousand meals and ten thousand cups of tea a day. The guys are joined in the choruses by the Aldeburgh Young Musicians. 'Here's beans & rice and rice & beans and a hand when you fall. For there's a friendly face, a better place and a future for us all.'
On of the album's stand out's is the the very moving and through provoking 'Be The Man', inspired by the incredible story of Matthew Ogston, who founded the 'Naz and Matt Foundation' which was set up to tackle religious and cultural homophobia following the tragic death of his fiancee. This is a beautiful written song has Sean's lead vocal giving the song the perfect among of feeling and gravitas. Soft picked guitar from Michael and piano from David are added to the mournful cello courtesy of Rachael McShane, while Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott adds complementary flugelhorn.
The incredible bravery of the passengers of the Paris bound Thaly's Express 9364 train who thwarted an on-board terrorist attack is explored in 'Carriage 12'. The heroes are name checked and given their due. I love the small details in the song, which create a vivid picture of the attack, giving it both realism and rich emotional depth.
An important part of UK's political history is the battle for Cable Street in London's East End in October 1936, where a hundred thousand people took to the streets to stop a march of the British Union of Fascists lead by Oswald Mosely and his 'black shirts'. 'Cable Street' is told through the eyes of sixteen year old Stockton born Johnny Longstaff, who was part of this counter demonstration. Johnny later took part in the Spanish Civil War and WW2 fighting facisism and for the rest of his life strongly campaigned for a better world. It remind us all to be thankful for the bravery of people like Johnny Longstaff and also to act as a warning that we should not repeat the mistakes of the past. As a side point Johnny's life is the subject of the Young'uns next album 'The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff' due for release later this year
Another standout is the very thought provoking 'Dark Water' tells the story of Hesham Modamani from Syria who swam the five mile very dangerous strait of the Aegan Sea with fellow Syrian Feras Abukhalil in the summer of 2015 to escape the war in their coutry. The song is also used as part of the production in the new version of Peter Bellemy's 'The Transports'. It has a very haunting refrain of 'Dark water......carry me'. The trio are joined once again by the Aldeburgh Young Musicians on heavenly backing vocals. Sombre piano is complement by a wonderful string section and Mary Ann Kennedy's harp, as the Syrian friends enter an almost kind of 'dream-like state', swimming on their backs under the bright stars. It is a stirring and stunning song....especially live.
'Bob Cooney's Miracle' (no relation to Sean) take a look at a modern miracle of the Spanish Civil War. Soldier Bob Cooney was fighting against Franco as part of the International Brigade. Having fifty seven hungry men in his charge and only a tin of corned beef and a small loaf of bread, he managed to make sure everyone got something to eat. You can tell that the guys really delight in the dialect word play and wit of the song.
The beautiful and mournful 'Lapwings' was inspired by a diary entry of a WW1 soldier, Thomas Williams of the 19th's King's Liverpool Regiment. A reflective tale of longing for home and loved ones amoung the horrors of war. It ends with the line 'My dreams were of English fields, horses at work ploughing and the spring cries of the peewits'
The mood changes for the optimistic 'These Hands' another moving and lovely character study. An wonderful example of the power of positivity and hope. This time the subject is Sybil Phoenix, the community worker and activist who in 1973, became the first black woman to be awarded the MBE. Her story is told against the backdrop of Michael strummed guitar and David's accented accordion, while the lyrics praise her strength and courage in an incredibly difficult time for black people in the UK.
The album concludes with another unaccompaned song 'The Hartlepool Pedlar' the true story of Michael Marks, the Eastern European Jewish refugee who fled the problems in mainland Europe in the late 18th century and landed in Hartlepool. He later went on to found the very very successful Marks & Spencer. This songs ends with the very telling and timely comment "This town was built by strangers!"