From its invention, music has been used to tell stories. An interweaving of people, places, events and emotions, music is a representation of our lives. Acting much like yarn, music effectively brings together all of the fibers of our being into a continuous, cohesive unit.
Perhaps this is why Blake Christiana chose the one-syllable word for his band. Yarn, a five-piece group from Brooklyn, N.Y., has spent t-he past few years unfurling alt-country on pour houses and bar rooms across the East.
Formed in 2007, Yarn has already released three albums, attracting a considerable fan base. 2010's "Come On In" has had the biggest pull so far. "Come On In" made it onto the year-end list for both the Americana Music Association and our area's popular public radio station, WNCW-FM.
"Come On In" spins tales about the road, wrecked relationships and the uncertainty of life. Yarn isn't one of those bands that records an album and hires a PR firm to do all the legwork for them. They are hard-working musicians and road warriors, playing several shows a week. Their dedication, along with allowing open taping and trading of their shows, has proven rewarding. While the lifestyle is exciting for the most part, it can also be straining, a feeling that Christiana attests to on songs like "Alone on the Weekend" and "These Bars Don't Look Too Friendly."
Yarn plays a style more closely related to the South than New York City. A mostly acoustic sound with appearances from the dobro, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel and harmonica, Yarn is laid-back and folksy. They are a rather unique act to their native area, but Yarn is never in denial of their home.
Even though "the neighbors don't know my name and the forecast calls for rain," Christiana still yearns after his Brooklyn flat in "Time Burns On." In a clear homage to Yarn's address, "New York City Found" is about feeling lost in the city, even when it's so familiar.
Yarn has been rightfully compared to North Carolina native, now New York City transplant, Ryan Adams and his former band, Whiskeytown. Like Adams, Yarn plays an alternative country style bred from Gram Parsons and his contemporaries. Blake Christiana's voice and delivery also bears resemblance to Adams'. Thankfully, Yarn is not as emotionally wrought and neurotic as Ryan Adams. Not to discredit Adams' talent, but Yarn is a little more composed and probably less likely to fall off the deep end.
An element of Yarn that is not to be overlooked are the exceptional vocal harmonies between Christiana and Trevor MacArthur. MacArthur's unique voice, evocative of Del McCoury's high lonesomeness, complements Christiana's in an ease that can only be reached through several years of performing together. The two have known each other for over half of their lives.
"Come On In" also features many hooks that its listeners will have running through their heads long after the music stops. "Schenectady," about Christiana's hometown, is sure to elicit whole-hearted sing-alongs when the band visits. "Yodelay" is just as fun to sing as it is to say, and "I Wanted to Get High" could be theme song for Narcotics Anonymous.
Being a musician requires a certain type of personality, one that can withstand the hardships of the business and extended periods of time away from home. Yarn passes the test and, admittedly, they do find the life hard. Instead of writing an album full of depressing songs about it though, on "Come On In," they spin the situation to their advantage. Any darkness they may experience is turned into a song that ropes in its listener, either through its catchiness or melody.
Expect Yarn to keep rolling with continued momentum, with a new album anticipated in 2011.
Yarn is online at YarnMusic.net.