Americana Lost and Found: The Yearlings of The Netherlands
Last week my local library was the recipient of about 500 barely, hardly, or never played compact discs that have made their way to my mailbox over the past couple of years. There were also a few boxes of recent books that have all been read and kept in excellent condition. They were my donations to the annual sale that will raise money to help fill the library’s shelves with new stuff. I’m really not much of a philanthropist, but hopefully the effort will bring in some money to an underfunded public institution, and admittedly it’s already done wonders for decluttering my apartment.
While it is indeed my good fortune to write a weekly column for this esteemed website, it is also both a curse and blessing that I am inundated every day with letters, emails, and packages trying to bring to my attention something new that I may choose to bring to your attention. Most come from marketing companies, managers, and public relations people, and as much as I’ve asked them to save the cost of paper, plastic, and postage since I’m an all- digital-all-the-time type dude, it just seems to be in their DNA to send me boxes and padded envelopes. So I guess on behalf of the public library, thanks for supporting reading and education.
Not to solicit or open the flood gates – repeat often: Ed does not write reviews – but what I prefer is when I get a note directly from the musicians. Like this one from a couple of weeks ago:
Dear Easy Ed,
The Yearlings are an alt-country band from The Netherlands. In November we released our album called Skywriting. Being a fan of your columns, we are very curious of what you think of it. Would you like to give it a listen?
With kind regards,
Notice the subtle flattery? Very effective. Niels wisely included a link to a streaming service to make it easy for me, and I added it to a playlist that I call “Listen To This New Stuff Now” and wrote back:
Thanks. Just sampled and added it to my playlist. Sounds real nice with an R.E.M. and Jayhawks vibe to it. Lots of jingle jangle guitar work. Here’s a question…why sing in English instead of Dutch?
The next day Niels replied:
Good question. I grew up listening to English and American Music. Neil Young, The Band, The Beatles. Later on as teenagers we mostly listened to, indeed, REM, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco etc. The same for my friend Olaf, the other lead singer, who by the way works as a university teacher in English linguistics. When we started making music, it just felt natural to do it in English.
Thanks for listening! Its just nice to know that someone likes what we are making.
So, thanks a lot for your response!
The Yearlings formed in 1999 and they performed over 200 shows and released two albums before parting ways six years later. In 2014 Niels and Olaf Koeneman began exchanging musical ideas and writing again. With enough material for an album, the original lineup came back together — Herman Gaaff, Léon Geuyen, and Bertram Mourits — and they headed back into the studio along with René van Barneveld on pedal steel. Skywriting was released in November and is available in all the places you’d expect it to be, and they are touring throughout the Netherlands to support it.
Over on their website they’ve got about a dozen reviews posted already, mostly in Dutch, which really doesn’t help much when you’re trying to dig for more information but you only read English. But Keith Hargreaves over at one of my favorite sites, Americana UK, posted this review, and I’ll close it out by sharing a few of his words:
Hailing from that mecca of Americana …..Utrecht. Not an obvious location for an album chockful of big songs that speak of big skies and carry breezy melodies by the score. These are Pettyesque songs played with brio and verve and the harmonies really chime. This is an album of influences constructed in a loving way to celebrate a particular genre and it works in its own joyous way.
But wait … there’s more!
So if you’re still with me, you may be wondering why I added “of The Netherlands” to the title of this column. Several thousand miles away, down in Australia, there is another band called The Yearlings, which features the folk and alt-country sound of Chris Parkinson and Robyn Chalklen. Together since 2000, they have released five studio albums and toured internationally. Although their last album, All The Wandering, is already almost five years old, they are indeed alive, well, and performing with their incredible collection of vintage instruments.
Y’all can consider this last clip a bonus: You’re getting two Yearling bands for the price of one. Don’t forget to support your local library and go out to hear live music whenever you can.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.