Recording information: Reliable Recorders, Chicago, II; Royal Recording, Colorado, CO.
Whatever you want to say about the Yawpers, you can't fault them for their ambition. While their debut album, 2015's American Man, was smart and rollicking stuff, they've upped the ante considerably for their second long-player, 2017's Boy in a Well. This time out, the Yawpers have written and recorded a concept album with a narrative that's more literate and idiosyncratic than one would expect from a roots rock band from Colorado. Boy in a Well tells the tale of an addled French woman who becomes pregnant after a brief assignation with a soldier on the day the Armistice is signed in 1918, ending World War I. Suffering shame from her family, the woman gives birth and sends the child down a well, where she regularly drops food down to keep her son alive. The boy grows to be a man living in the well, and eventually climbs out and comes face to face with the woman who gave him life. As stories go, it's not quite a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who can play pinball, but it's compelling and imaginative, and the narrative scans better than the average rock opera. And even when the story structure gets a bit shaky, the music absolutely gets over. From the expressive dynamics of "Armistice Day" and the rollicking crash and bash of "A Decision Is Made," to the bluesy squall of "Mon Nom" and the whisper-quiet passion of "God's Mercy," the Yawpers show they have the smarts and the spirit to give this music a wealth of stylistic diversity bound together by muscle, sweat, and ardor. Tommy Stinson's production buoys the songs and adds atmosphere to the performances without cluttering the report of these three musicians. It's anyone's guess what the Yawpers might have in mind for the future, but they sure stepped up their game with their sophomore album, and Boy in a Well is an experiment that absolutely succeeds. ~ Mark Deming
Magnet - "Nate Cook and Jesse Parmet play acoustic instruments, but they produce an extraordinary palette of tone, color and sound as they range through the worlds of rockabilly, early R&B, blues, folk and punk."