The popular stereotype about young people vs. their elders is just how loud and rowdy the kids are. So considering the album’s title, it’s a bit of a surprise how quiet and languid Jamestown Revival‘s latest album, Young Man, is. It’s the band’s first all-acoustic project. They recorded the material in their hometown at Nile City Sound in Fort Worth, Texas, and there is a sense of nostalgia about the whole enterprise. Listening to the new record is like driving across the Lone Star state. The view doesn’t change from moment to moment, but before you know it, everything looks completely different than it did before and is spectacular in its own way.
These are not so young men singing about their lost youth. They may not possess the wisdom of ages; bandmates Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance are still too young for that. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t learned some important life lessons. The biggest nugget of wisdom is that life goes by too fast. Or as the narrator puts it on the Prince-like groove (think “Purple Rain”) of “Moving Man” when he cites his father, “I never thought a minute would be this hard to hold / Even though my papa told me, ‘Son you look up, and you’re old.'” The snaky beat suggests the seductive quality of just peering ahead instead of slowing down and reflecting on the past.
But mostly, the songs’ protagonists are looking backward, and most tracks resemble the classic non-electric country-rock albums of the 1970s by such acts as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, and because of Jamestown Revival’s Western sensibility, on some cuts the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The songs on Young Man share a common theme about aging, but each one is stylistically different from the playful Dead-like beats of “Slowing Down” to the atmospheric, ethereal moments on “Northbound”. As the duo sing on the latter tune, “You just sit back and enjoy the ride.” The stripped-down stringed instrumentation keeps things moving even when one is chilling.
That also adds intimacy to the vocal harmonies. The two frequently sing simultaneously and play off each other’s personae. One sings it straight while the other decorates the lyric with different intonations, and then they switch. The album was produced by Robert Ellis, who contributes to the music along with engineer Josh Block and Jamestown Revival’s longtime rhythm section of bassist Nick Bearden and drummer Ed Benrock.
Young Man is not a concept album in the traditional sense. However, in several recent interviews, Jamestown Revival have mentioned that they want listeners to conceive of the record as a whole rather than as an anthology of separate songs. However, the songs’ high quality also allows the record to be enjoyed as the source of solo pieces meant for discrete play and repetition. The band have already released the title song, “These Days” and “Working on Love” as singles. As there are no weak tracks on the album, they could easily release the rest in the same way. The nuances found within the isolated songs merit careful attention.
Jamestown Revival offer keen insights into everyday life and translate their observations into wonderful music. Whether they are crooning about the howling of coyotes and skipping stones or celebrating the camaraderie at a dive bar and the difficult labor of keeping love alive and growing, Jamestown Revival know that getting older can mean getting better—even if that’s only the result of having memories to ponder in the present.