Published on October 9th, 2019 | by Guest Editor0
British Trio The Young’uns Set to Bring Their Political Folk Music to Pacific Northwest
Just as election season is heating up in America, British folk trio The Young’uns are set to return to the U.S. and bring their unique brand of social commentary to venues in the Pacific Northwest following their August debut U.S. tour. Named ‘Best Group’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards two years in a row (2015 and 2016), they introduced their trademark harmonies, honesty and humour to American audiences during a series of east coast shows that included their debut appearance at the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. Their tour continues with shows in Washington State and northwest Canada beginning October 24.
The Young’uns are best known for their largely-unaccompanied story songs that are at once poignant and humourous, some of them ripped straight from news headlines. Their 2018 album STRANGERS, described as “a protest album that is pointed and forceful” by the popular folk blog brightyoungfolk.com, was voted ‘Best Album’ by listeners at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was widely acknowledged by critics as an antidote to the toxic divisiveness of Brexit and the rise of fear and racial tension in Britain.
Armed with songs about the three American friends who fought off an Islamic terrorist on a Paris-bound train (“Carriage 12”), “Dark Water” about a refugee swimming across the Aegean Sea to escape the war in Syria and “Streets of Lahore” about a young woman murdered by her own family for marrying without their permission, among many others written by band member Sean Cooney, The Young’uns are now poised to leave their indelible mark on the U.S. folk scene.
Their song “Be the Man” from STRANGERS was inspired by the story of LGBTQ activist Matthew Ogston, whose fiancé Naz committed suicide because of his family’s religious and cultural repudiation of his homosexuality. Ogston, who founded the Naz and Matt Foundation in Naz’s memory (www.nazandmattfoundation.org) to help parents to better understand and accept their LBGTQ children, is featured in the band’s music video for song which has also been performed, with a soaring choral arrangement, by the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus to raise further awareness.
The Young’uns most recent album release is a unique piece of modern folk theatre entitled THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY LONGSTAFF, a real-life folk hero from their northeast England hometown of Stockton on Tees, who went from begging on the streets to fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. It’s a touching and often hilarious musical adventure told via 16 specially composed songs, spoken word, striking imagery and the real recorded voice of Johnny himself following in the footsteps of one working class hero who witnessed some of the momentous events of the 1930s. Louderthanwar.com called it: “Enthralling, moving and hilarious…simply the best thing they’ve done.”
Stockton on Tees is a post-industrial English town on the banks of the River Tees in an area therefore known as Teesside. It has experienced much poverty and deprivation, but it also has a great history. For one thing, the first passenger railway in the world – Stephenson’s Locomotion – ran from there in 1825, and the man who invented the match also came from Stockton.
The Young’uns began inauspiciously in 2003 when teenagers Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle were out looking for beer one night in their hometown. “We found a pub and heard music coming from the back room,” explains Cooney. “We tentatively opened the door and found people singing. This was singing like we’d never heard before. Singing without instruments. Singing in a northern English accent. Songs about where we came from. Songs about places we knew. It was so honest, so unpretentious, so true that we were blown away and wondered why we’d never heard these songs before. Why no one had told us about them at school. Why they seemed to be secret. We found out that the people in that pub had been singing in that room every Monday night for 40 years, and because we were the youngest people who had been in to listen to them for some time, we were christened ‘the young’uns.’ That’s how we got our name.”
The Young’uns are part of the rebirth of topical music. In addition to touring, they have hosted harmony and singing workshops at hundreds of festivals around the world. Influential UK music magazine Mojo has said of them: “Glorious….celebrating the uncelebrated with warmth, vigour and passion” while The Guardian has written: “The harmonies are glorious, the wit is waspish. The songs are powerful, the banter is relentless and the audience is happy. What’s not to like?”
Now it’s America’s turn to weigh in.
The Young’uns will tour Canada in addition to adding new shows to their debut U.S. tour. The itinerary is as follows:
Thursday, October 24— Rogue Folk Club, Vancouver, BC
Friday, October 25 (7:30PM)—Traditions Fair Trade Café, Olympia, WA
(ticket information: 360-705-281-9650)
Saturday, October 26, 1:00-3:15PM Vocal Workshop—Keystone Church, 5019 Keystone Pl. N; Seattle, WA 98103
Saturday, October 26, 7:30 PM Concert—Keystone Church, Seattle, WA (ticket information for both events: [email protected] or 206.551.0818 or https://www.bpt.me/event/4401622
Sunday, October 27—Greene’s Corner, 2208 James Street, Bellingham, WA (https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4398474)
Monday, October 28—Dream Café, Penticton, BC
Wednesday, October 30—Key City Theatre, Cranbrook, BC
Saturday, November 2—Saturday Night Special, Calgary, AB
Tuesday, November 5—The Exchange, Regina, SK
Wednesday, November 6—The Bassment, Saskatoon, SK
Thursday, November 7—Festival Hall, Calgary, AB
Saturday, November 9—Festival Place, Sherwood Park, AB
Sunday, November 10—Heartwood Folk Club, Athabasca, AB
from left: Michael Hughes, David Eagle, Sean Cooney