Last month we wrote about young bands who developed their musicianship in the bluegrass realm, only to apply the instrumental technique and sense of harmony and rhythm to original songs that are equally influenced by modern pop music. The point was to differentiate them from artists who use the ensemble form Bill Monroe left us, or some semblance of it, but without a thorough grounding in his music, or that of his contemporaries.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course; just that they are separate sub-genres, and that people who enjoy bluegrass can find much to to love in this new dimension of bluegrass.
Finnders & Youngberg fall squarely into this category, as demonstrated on their new, six-song EP, I Don’t Want Love You Won’t Give Until I Cry. It offers five new songs from guitarist Mike Finnders, and a fun old time number from fiddler Ryan Drickey and mandolinist Rich Zimmerman.
Completing the band is the Youngberg part of the equation. Erin Younberg plays bass and sings while husband Aaron handles banjo and steel guitar. Erin and Aaron… isn’t that cute? Both had been members of Hit & Run when the band was Colorado based.
The sounds here run from old time, through contemporary bluegrass into a dense, somewhat orchestrated wall of acoustic sound. That last is how the record starts out, with Diner, an introspective song told from the perspective of a waitress at a local eatery who watches everyone pass through. She thinks about how easily she could gas up and go, but that whenever she tries, she ends up back at the diner every time.
Aaron’s banjo is interesting here, using an eighth note pattern which rhythmically imitates the accents and sound of a Scruggs forward roll, but using just two notes instead of three in a mechanistic figure gives a very different feel to the song.
After that somewhat melancholy song, the next track, Lonely Too Long, takes the form of a modern, alt-country & western ballad, with Aaron providing pedal steel instead of banjo. It’s sung in duet by Mike and Erin, with a plaintive, longing-for-love vibe that is very appealing. The track really runs with a bluegrass beat, but the steel gives it another flavor.
Infidelity is next, a fast 3/4 bluegrass song whose protagonist is reaping the fruits of his unfaithfulness. Finnders sings the lead on his composition, with a depth and sincerity that conveys true regret. Hey Ramona is an old time romp, that mixes a catchy fiddle tune melody with a smattering of lyrics. Ramona is the name of the Youngbergs’ young daughter, and you can easily picture her dancing with joy to this lighthearted number.
The title track is something of an anomaly, with Erin singing Finnders’ dark torch song while Drickey’s string section fills the background. Also in 3/4 time, the contrast between this one and Infidelity couldn’t be more stark.
This enjoyable package ends with Girl From The North Fork Valley, a driving bluegrass song that takes a modern, Western turn on the classic bluegrass theme of returning to the girl waiting at home.
Finnders & Youngberg, who also go by the nickname FY5, tour widely throughout Colorado and the MidWest. If you won’t find the opportunity to catch them live, this new album is available on disc from CD Baby, and for digital purchase from popular download sites.