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THE YOUNG ‘UNS - Never Forget

THE YOUNG ‘UNS - Never Forget
Hereteu Records YNGS10

I still remember the first time I heard The Young ‘Uns - or, more accurately, experienced them. In a crowded Whitby pub some years ago, their uncannily close harmonies and sheer volume made my insides rattle; it definitely transcended a merely acoustic experience. The depth and power of this Hartlepool trio of Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes belie their youth, while their sharp humour and stage antics teeter deliciously on the brink of complete anarchy. Their debut album of 2010, Man, I Feel Like A Young ‘Un, made up in primal power and charm for what it slightly lacked in cohesion, but as one might expect in four years, the trio have stridden ahead and Never Forget sees them stately, measured and sure of themselves.

For one thing, Cooney’s songwriting, which showed its mettle on the group’s debut, is given full rein here; richly melodic, lyrically elegant, wryly observant, often poignant and frequently coloured by Hartlepool history. Witness, for example, the mighty Altar, a beautiful pair of verses about St Columba, backed by brooding piano, or The Sandwell Gate, re-recorded from the debut to reflect a new and confident maturity. Social commentary on a national scale neatly bookends the album with offerings from both Cooney and Eagle inspired by last year’s ‘protest’ at the Bull Lane Mosque in York. Comparisons with Teeside’s godlike Wilson Family are perhaps unavoidable on a cappella tracks like Graeme Miles’ Jack Ironside and it’s hardly surprising that sea shanties are also a particular strength of the group. Their punchy and rhythmically idiosyncratic Blood Red Roses is exemplary of the trio’s mastery of tonal light and shade as it dovetails into a tenderly restrained Shallow Brown.

What is overwhelmingly apparent is that the boys have that rare vocal affinity which is usually the reserve of close blood relations: in their cases, it is a mixture of serendipity, plain talent and nine years of singing together. We are very fortunate to have The Young ‘Uns. I for one am looking forward to hearing – no, experiencing – whatever they do next.

Clare Button

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This album was reviewed in Issue 101 of The Living Tradition magazine.