Recording information: Royal Recording; The Blasting Room.
If Bruce Springsteen could make bitterness and a loss of hope anthemic, he'd be writing songs like Nate Cook, the leader of Colorado trio the Yawpers. On the Yawpers' first full-length album, 2015's American Man, Cook's songs are Americana in the truest sense of the word, full of rugged individualists and widescreen backdrops, but there's a lot of cynicism and defeat in his perspective on American life, and even when his characters confidently declare they want to get away, the weariness audible in the edges of Cook's performances suggests they have a small chance of ever crossing the border into anything better. But Cook spins his tales with passion, force, and unpretentious smarts, and the band explodes like a string of firecrackers, with Cook and Jesse Parmet wailing hard on acoustic guitars that have been cranked up loud enough to send their sound into neighboring states, and drummer Noah Shomberg beating out the rhythms with a lean but unrelenting ferocity. The Yawpers have taken the elements that built rock & roll in the first place, primal blues and country, and reassembled them while hot-wiring them with a few lightning bolts' worth of electricity, and the results sound by turns epic and feral, while Cook's vocals fuse a true believer's hope with a realist's knowledge that his questions don't have simple answers. The Yawpers are one of the few bands that can sound unpretentiously intelligent while playing music that's this raucous and elemental at the same time. If the Yawpers are trying to make sense of the soul of America in the 21st century, their mind/body balance makes for some powerfully satisfying music, and American Man is an impressive debut from a band that appears to have some very serious potential. ~ Mark Deming