Imagine Richard Youngs as the junior member of a cabal of prolific and puritanical English musician-mystics, including The Fall's Mark E Smith, Van der Graaf Generator's Peter Hammill, Martin Carthy and The Clangers composer Vernon Elliot, and still his nature will elude you - Stewart Lee, Sunday Times.
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Chord changes are a luxury made possible by technical competence.
Back in 1977 when I picked up a guitar the first chord I learnt was E minor. I could’ve stopped there and written this album. All I needed was a capo and some lyrics. But, tethered by notions of song craft and aspirations of virtuosity I learnt to play the instrument with greater complexity. Now middle-aged, I would like to think myself able to transcend such considerations.
The first song you hear on this record is in E minor. In fact, it is E minor and nothing else. The next song is F minor - made possible by placing the capo on the first fret and forming the same shape with my fingers one fret up. The song after that is F sharp minor. You see a pattern. It’s a series all the way to the 12th fret and full circle back to E minor, except one octave up. It’s high concept, low technique. fleshed out with vocal melodies and added instrumental flourishes from friends and family.
Learning E minor at the same time as me was Pete Aves. We were the guitarists of pre-teen acoustic punk band The Rejects. Subsequently he has worked with Petula Clark, Lee Hazlewood, Jarvis Cocker, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the High Llamas. Now he’s back working with me.
Madeleine Hynes was one quarter of the avant primitivist Leather Mole.
Frances McKee is still one half of the legendary Glasgow band The Vaselines.
Andrew Paine is a Glass Redux recording artiste and bassist for The Flexibles.
Classically trained violinist Jane Sayer has produced techno records as Johann Sebastian Barking.
Sorley Youngs is the singer and guitarist of The Flexibles.
Guest appearances aside, this remains a collection of songs that can be covered by anyone within hours of picking up a guitar. Liberated from dexterity, all that is required is the holding down of two fingers and a steady strum. At the core of each is one chord. The rest is scenery.
Richard Youngs 2016
released December 9, 2016
Richard Youngs: acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drum machine, electric guitars, percussion, piano, vocals.
Pete Aves: pedal steel on Obfuscation, Grounded Stars In The Afternoon, Fairweather Thoughts.
Madeleine Hynes: heavy electric on Where Are You Going To Get Your Luck From?; backing vocal on All Year Breathing.
Frances McKee: backing vocals on Grounded Stars In The Afternoon, My Fall.
Andrew Paine: handclaps and synth on Like An Astronaut.
Jane Sayer: acoustic and electric violins on Strangest Day On Earth.
Sorley Youngs: lead vocal on Where Are You Going To Get Your Luck From?; backing vocal on All Year Breathing; harmonica on For Too Long, My Fall.