Denver trio The Yawpers fuse Americana and groove-heavy blues with raw punk aggression and have far outgrown their roots rock beginnings in recent years. Their last album, 2017’s ‘Boy In A Well’, was a concept album, a tragedy set in WW1 France, about a mother abandoning her newborn child. Ambitious and passionate, main songwriter Nate Cook took his songwriting skills to another level on this album.
But where do you go after such an ambitious project? Well, in contrast ‘Human Question’, their third album for the ever cool Bloodshot Records, was written and recorded over a 2 month period. Tracked live in a single room ‘Human Question’ has a live immediacy to it that perfectly suits the band’s dual guitar/drums set up. It sees Nate in a self-reflective mood rather than a self-destructive one, utilising his lyrical suss as a cathartic healing process.
Opener ‘Child Of Mercy’ builds on a nifty little blues riff over upbeat drums. Nate’s vocals reaching falsetto as the song builds and builds to a distortion-filled industrial climax that would make Trent Reznor proud. One song in and already The Yawpers sound like no one else, as they defy genre tagging with an opening salvo.
Nate has stated this album is therapy for past traumas rather than wallowing in depression and self-destruction. Yet, musically the band seems more diverse than ever before.
The psychedelic-tinged title track is a Beatles-esque trip that straddles indie territory, the sort of thing Kula Shaker pulled off with great success back in the late 90’s. They blend those same indie beats of new drummer Alex Koshak to great effect with garage rock power chords on ‘Earn Your Heaven’. A ramshackle breakdown full of scratchy noisemongering that takes the band into Blues Explosion territory, which is always a mighty fine place to be. And talking of such things, the dancefloor friendly ‘Dancing On My Knees’ has a Jon Spencer style smoothness about it too, and some crazy ass slide guitar goodness thrown in for good measure.
Elsewhere ‘Forgiveness Through Pain’ is 70’s boogie rock with Jack White dynamics thrown in, that gives a fresh modern twist.
The art of Springsteen style storytelling is ever present, Nate showing how much he has developed as a songwriter. Take the gentle, countrified vibes of the contemplative ‘Man As A Ghost’, where the mix of acoustics and hushed percussion are just enough to accompany his tale of a man with nothing left to give. ‘Can’t Wait’ is a perfect slice of Americana. The juxtaposition of upbeat drums and lazy, laid back Tom Petty style vocal harmonies works real good here, and the addition of ringing tremolo guitar is just sublime to these ears.
The eerie, yet exquisite ‘Carry Me’ has a ‘Nebraska’ quality to it. A laid bare and stripped back feel, just 3 guys in a room feeding of each other’s energy. Such a passionate, yet gentle delivery, you actually feel like you are intruding on the recording. The instrumentation is minimal, leaving space for the vocals to breathe and build. Here Nate comes on like prime Steven Tyler doing gospel as the song reaches a climax. The ensuing sax solo just seals the deal really. A song to close your eyes and drift away to.
The ten track album finishes with crisp, clean guitar tones and a Dylan-esque vocal delivery as Nate Cook takes us to church with ‘Where The Winters End’. He delivers his own personal redemption song, as uplifting and moving as it is solemn. It may leave you with a tear in your eye, but it will also leave with the feeling that everything is going to be ok.
The Yawpers cherry pick from folk, country and scuzzy blues. At times they are the MC5 or The Stooges, frantic and on edge, elsewhere they soothe the soul with acoustic led Americana, dark and desperate at times. Yet at all times they are cohesive and utterly captivating. I feel these Colorado rogues may well have delivered their most complete album to date.
Author: Ben Hughes
Buy ‘Human Question’ Here