Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Olden Yolk, Olden Yolk, 2018

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

I first heard Olden Yolk when a friend sent me an email with the video for the band's "Cut To The Quick." I was immediately taken with Shane Butler's Grant McLennan look and sound and Caity Shaffer who is shown playing a Hofner bass and looking just as cool. (Is there another more iconic bass guitar?) The song had a real nice folk-rock sound, and I was hooked.

But listening to the rest of Olden Yolk, the debut album from New York City-based songwriters, vocalists, and multi-instrumentalists Butler and Shaffer, I heard a lot of other things. For example, there's the widescreen, lush opening and strong bass line on "Verdant" in which we hear, for the first time, the wonderful harmonizing of Butler and Shaffer on the dreamy chorus: "Back on the mind sometimes / You feel logical / Sometimes don't."

Shaffer, who sounds more than a little like Nico on her solo outings, takes over lead vocals on the upbeat "Vital Sign" as well as the moody "After Us" in which she also provides angelic backing vocals. The "Aria" that follows "Vital Signs" is a beautiful grand piano interlude.

"Gamblers On A Dime" brings to mind the solo folk stylings of Slowdive's Neil Halstead (shades of Nick Drake). And the McLennan vibe comes back on "Hen's Teeth" where the voices of Butler and Shaffer work together like McLennan and Syd Straw to remind me of the duets on the Horsebreaker Star album.

Butler has this really cool way of delivering some of his lyrics. It's a kind of talking-folk-blues not unlike David Byrne on the Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless." Butler does it on a couple of songs like "Takes One To Know One" and "Espirit De Corps" (in which his opening narration sounds a bit like "No Small Wonder" from Bob Geldof's Vegetarians of Love). But it really works great on "Cut To The Quick" on the lines about NYC: "Down at Stonewall / In the light of an act that was so cold / Sculpted in many days that were untold / Flowers hidden in the streets tears unfold."

"Takes One To Know One" is another song about New York with its reference to Ellis Island. It also has some great electric guitar and a full band arrangement highlighting the contributions from drummer Dan Drohan and guitarist Jesse DeFrancesco.

Olden Yolk is out now on Trouble In Mind Records.

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