by Chris Familton
There is a romanticised back story to Winston Yellen, the man behind Night Beds, who dropped out of college, travelled the USA for five months before unknowingly renting a home in the woods that used to belong to Johnny Cash and finding the inspiration for Country Sleep. It is a great story but one that is irrelevant when it comes to the listener enjoying an album that possesses a number of peaks amid its standard indie folk angst.
The short opening track Faithful Heights immediately draws attention to Yellen’s undeniably impressive voice that soars high and yearning amongst some billowing reverb a la My Morning Jacket in their quieter widescreen moments. There is a strong sense of familiarity with Yellen’s singing style, drawing a line back through M. Ward, Ryan Adams, Grant Lee Phillips and Jeff Buckley yet for the most part he sounds believable and genuine. The downside is that the sensitive, melancholic troubadour vibe wears thin without strong songs to support it across a full album. There are some moving highlights like the mellow euphoria of Ramona, Borrowed Time’s lilting country shimmer and the interesting contrasts in dynamics on Wanted You In August.
A good record then but one that leans too heavily on the analysis of forlorn, lost and lonely love than the full blooded outpouring one senses Yellen was reaching for. Country Sleep is stranded between the artful emotional exorcism of Bon Iver and the near perfect relationship dissection of Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker which leaves little for the listener to really sink their teeth into.
this review was first published in The Drum Media and on themusic.com.au