When Richard Youngs agreed to record a country album for his debut on Ba Da Bing Records, it was like he had accepted a dare. “I haven’t got a country bone in my body,” he admitted to Ben Chasny in his 2012 BOMB Magazine interview. Label boss Ben Goldberg had given Youngs a whole list of dream records he’d like hear from him, which means other options must have been on the table, but the British singer-noisemaker elected to try his hand at America’s Appalachian offspring anyway.
What he ended up with doesn’t sound like Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams at all, though there’s more going on here than meets the ear. Youngs uses all the right tools—acoustic and slide guitar, banjo, harmonica—but his songs are looser and more exploratory than most things in the country canon. Looser because they sound as if they were committed to tape by osmosis; Youngs captures most of his ideas rough-hewn and leaves them that way. More exploratory because, without a drawl or a connection to the style’s traditions, and without a backing band to rein him in, Youngs is free to improvise on his idea of the country sound and free to ignore the usual conventions.