Smile Politely

Young, Restless, and Bashful

The Bashful Youngens’ latest effort, Inflorescent, is a seamless continuation of their previous self-titled recording from last year. Neither album sounds like it comes from these parts.

Something about the music of The Bashful Youngens inspires a yearning to get in the car and take a road trip.

Maybe it’s the band’s sprightly acoustic guitar or diverse instrumentation that includes mandolin, harmonica, well-placed piano, and slide guitar for depth. Or it could be the lyrics sung by Carrie Chandler and Aaron Short, which often explore answers amid despair but somehow break through with a sense of hope. Perhaps the special element within the duo’s sound stems from an inner desire for something better, something attainable far away from current surroundings.

Or maybe they simply write good drivin’ music.

Soundwise, the Youngens’ latest effort, Inflorescent, is a seamless continuation of their previous self-titled recording from last year. The new six-song album is a tad more atmospheric and lively than the previous one, which has its share of quiet country ditties. Neither album sounds like it comes from these parts.

The rousing opener, “Tennessee,” is a prime example of the road-trip tempo that makes this band inspiring. Singing together in their fluid way, Chandler and Short wonder: “As I leave now/Is there any way you follow me out?/Go till we see the light/Of the broken town that we left behind.”

More bright-sounding, down-home songs about folks on the move include “Paper Town” and “Miss Elaina,” the latter standing out as the most made-for-radio tune on the album due to a bold and melodic country chorus by the singers at their harmonious best.

Chandler and Short take turns singing lead throughout Inflorescent, but their voices intermingle with the grace of an established and equal musical partnership. “Hand in Mine” has a bluegrass sound and spirited drumming by Stephen Johnson while “Unsung” starts quietly and builds to a chorus of restlessness: “Would you leave if it all could be unsung?/To another place in time, where you got everything you want.”

“I Would” closes the album, a dark, bluesy number sung with hardened spunk by Chandler. To this point the vocals sound young and sweet and uncorrupted, but “I Would” is a song about a stifling, failing relationship: “If I could love you better, I would,” Chandler sings with genuine regret. Clocking in at 4 minutes, 43 seconds, it’s the longest song on an album that goes by way too fast. Approximately halfway through the tune, Matt Chupp delivers a blistering guitar solo that comes from a deep dark hole at 2 a.m. in the morning at some out-of-the-way pub, offering an eye-opening contrast to the band’s acoustic-based nature.       

Chandler and Short joined forces in 2010 and sound so authentically roots-country-Americana that it’s hard to believe they started in the small-urban college towns of Champaign-Urbana, cornfields aside. If these talented musicians ever take a road trip of their own, they might consider a permanent destination where they’d fit right in: Nashville.

Catch performances this weekend by The Bashful Youngens at Allerton Park and at the Hogchute Opry 2017. 

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