Bio, click to print.
FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM FROM AUSTRALIA’S OWN ALT. COUNTRY ALCHEMISTS
“From the barefoot waif in freezing Memphis to that unreachable horizon where parallel lines meet, The Yearlings are back on the yearning track, hauling the throb of bittersweet sorrow through vast silence …hope lies in the holes of this long, haunted music.” Philip White
A lot can happen in twelve years. Some relationships grow weary and worn, but for Adelaide duo The Yearlings (Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson), passing time has only distilled their unique brand of Australian alt. country, steeped in Americana traditions.
After spending the past four years sharing their brooding ballads, rolling roots and haunting harmonies with local and international audiences, The Yearlings have returned with their fifth studio album, ALL THE WANDERING, a ten-song collection which showcases their quiet evolution.
Dark and sparse, yet full to the brim with imagery and atmosphere, ALL THE WANDERING was recorded to 2-inch tape on a vintage Studer 24-track tape machine; its soul every bit as old as the machinery on which it was captured. Evocative stories of country, travel, love and longing are cradled by the subtle, yet substantial grooves of bassist Harry Brus (Renee Geyer, Jimmy Barnes) and drummer BJ Barker (Kasey Chambers). There is more diesel in the tank, but The Yearlings’ trademark fragility and spaciousness remains, masterfully captured by iconic Adelaide sound engineer Mick Wordley.
ALL THE WANDERING is bookended by two standout tunes: the expansive, yearning title-track ‘All The Wandering’ and the pensive, horn-infused ‘Breathless Eric’. The eight songs between seamlessly shift with a calm, unifying conviction from the gentle, encouraging ‘Heart of It All’, the swaggering and wistful ‘Soldier’s Fortune to the dark and distorted ‘Way Out East’ and mesmerisingly drowsy ‘Valley of the Souls’. ‘What Becomes of Love’ may just be the hidden hit with its languid, perfect harmonies and bittersweet, timeless lyrics. ALL THE WANDERING is an album that will sweetly haunt you far beyond its end.
“We wanted a ‘widescreen’ sound for this record: fat drums, a female choir, horns and clear acoustic guitars so it would drip with atmosphere,” says Chris Parkinson.
ALL THE WANDERING by THE YEARLINGS is due for release on Tuesday 10 June through Vitamin Records. The Yearlings will be touring major cities and regional centers throughout July and August.
“Brooding, country folk. Chalklen’s voice can haunt you for days.”
- Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald
“The Yearlings express the lyrical truth of storylines about real life that poetically tug at the heartstrings.”
– Jimmy Little
Rhythms Magazine review, Marty Jones
For there’s just as much danger is silence and space – actually more when you consider that fear fuelled by the unknown. And The Yearlings have always exhibited a predilection for space in their music, much like their unavoidable influences Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. But that space is always more effective when you never quite know what’s coming next, and when there’s a tone of menace lurking. All The Wandering presents that darker cusp of The Yearlings, gathering the elements they’ve built their name on, but adding some “gravel” as engineer Mick Wordley called it – some lithe sonic muscle, with horns, BJ Barker on drums, and Harry Brous a significantly propulsive addition on bass. But also some gravity in the songs themselves. At the core of this, ‘Way Out East’ is dense and dark and electric, its album mates inevitably orbiting around it. With a grinding electric solo, the song is one of the band’s most intense statements to date.
The duo – Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson – also inhabit their own voices with greater conviction than ever before. That can partly be attributed to that gravity – melodic, thematic, and sonic. But each also seems to be gaining a greater awareness off his/her own strengths – and, more importantly, limitations – and how best to employ them.
‘Blue Sky Boy’, located at the assassination of Martin Luther King, and ‘Way Out East’ are two of Parkinson’s most powerful compositions to date. ‘All The Wandering’ opens the record like something belonging to Emmylou Harris’s canon, and Chalklen’s ‘Valley Of Souls’ and ‘What Becomes Of Love’ are genuinely haunting – delicate but ringing with eloquent portent.
To cap things off, Wordley has nailed the balance between sonic quality and live-room intensity. Martin Jones
Is All The Wandering a progression or a giant leap for The Yearlings?
No I see it as a progression more than a huge step, definitely. And it could have gone either way as well. We could have approached it differently and then maybe it wouldn’t have been the record you’ve been waiting for. Who knows? We actually recorded that whole album as duo last winter at our place. And that sounds really good, too. But was we were recording it as a duo, we were just starting to hear all this other stuff. So that was the beginnings of thinking about doing it again and going up to Mick’s and maybe just tightening up some arrangements and making it fatter and bigger.
The extra weight of the horns and Harry Brous on bass is all apparent, but I was struck by a greater authority in your voices.
I’m not sure, but it might have helped having recorded that album twice. Possibly, I don’t know. I think we’re just getting more comfortable these days with our voices. ‘Cause neither of us has a strong voice, it’s not like we’re ever going to go on The Voice and sing or anything like that. And even amongst our peers we notice that our voices are littler in comparison (laughs). And it’s fine and it is what it is, but I think now that we’re used to it and a little bit more down the track we can make it our own.
Mick Wordley is renowned for focusing on the spirit of the performance first and foremost. Did you have to mediate that a little, focus on the tone and the notes as well?
(laughs) Well I really do trust him. There are times when we’ll just do another take anyway. You’ve heard this a million times before, but it’s often within the first three takes that you get something. Usually with us it’s number two. And we’ve definitely learned from Mick to just go for the spirit of the thing as well. There’s definitely loads of imperfections on this record if I listen close, but there’s this feeling that you really do go for. I mean all that early influence stuff, like Jackson Browne and things like that, to me that’s a feeling as well. But I think sonically we worked together on this record hard. I think I was more concerned with sonics than anything else really. I think the takes went by pretty well because Rob and I knew the songs pretty well and the guys were just on it. But it was just working on tones and sounds and trying to make it sound, I guess, just deeper and with a few more hidden secrets than other albums.
Well you have developed your own sound. There’s always a lot of space in, which you guys play off well.
Yeah I guess you’re right. Yeah, I just like to hear air. It’s that classic term, ‘Make space the final frontier.’ (laughs). Definitely, I love to hear air and space and nothingness a lot.
I can equate that space with the vast open spaces of South Australia.
Yeah. Yeah for sure. Our view from our house is just like that. We’ve got this view that goes down a paddock, over a horse field and then the Mount Lofty Ranges in the background and down to the right is an expanse of beach. And I’ll always, whenever I listen to music, I’ll put on a piece of vinyl or something and I’ll look out that window... and it just kind of works. So even recording this record and listening back to tapes, it really does help me to visually look out that window... it does, it’s a picture and music all at once. I think you’re right. I definitely think where you are creates a sound. Definitely. I mean think of Nashville – there’s a sound. Memphis – there’s a sound. Melbourne, Sydney.
‘Way Out East’ is an important core to this album for me. It’s an intense statement against which everything else is measured.
Yeah it was sort of hard to know where to place it. But it is a big statement that song. I don’t know what it’s saying, but it’s definitely different. And it’s got more electricity. Definitely edgier than probably anything we’ve ever done. But I see that as probably a pretty big development and something that we could draw upon and work with and making something more of further on down the track. And that’s all happening organically, no one’s planning any of this. It’s all song by song, whatever comes out. But being in the middle of the record is really good because the next song that comes in, ‘For Too Much’, is totally the opposite. Who knows, we might end up doing a full on crazy horse record at some stage (laughs).
The Big Issue July 2014
After 15 years together, this Adelaide duo can be forgiven if their latest album sounds a little world- weary. Fact is the Yearlings predate alt-country’s rise to fashion in the early 2000s, and thus their measured, sophisticated Americana has a sense of authenticity (something other Australian acts in this realm often lack). The quiet maturity of
All the Wandering, and its hints of Whiskeytown and Gillian Welch, is entrancing. Unsurprisingly, God (on ‘Blue Sky Boy’) and the down-and-out (‘For Too Much’) are consistent themes on the album. And, just when things seem a little too somnolent, a track like the superb ‘Way Out East’ emerges, with muddy electric guitar (think early Wilco) to add a more restless energy. The album could use a bit more of that, yet Chris Parkinson’s strained vocals in partnership with the wispy tones of Robyn Chalklen brilliantly anchor this sleepy statement. BARNABY SMITH
Adealide Guitar Festival
Here's a review of our show with the Punch Brothers at The Adelaide International Guitar Festival - Festival Theatre, 10 August 2012.
Opening act local alt. country duo The Yearlings were my highlight of the night. Beautiful songs played perfectly and straight from the heart is what we were handed. It’s hard to beat music presented in this way. With the addition of upright bass for the half hour set, the sound was warm and well rounded. Robyn Chalklen’s vocals and acoustic guitar were subtle and perfect as usual. It was, however co-vocalist and guitarist Chris Parkinson’s night to shine. By far and away the best guitarist in Adelaide, Parkinson played his vintage electric guitar with sublime touch and skill, with liquid notes and wavering tremolo effortlessly filling the vast space of the Festival Theatre. 'Sweet Runaway', the title track of their latest recording, was breathtakingly beautiful and very well complemented by some newer tunes, including 'Plain Gold Ring'. Banjo led 'Wildflower Girl' was also a real treat.
The Yearlings fly the flag for those that believe the true beauty of music comes from the heart, not the hype. May they continue to do that for us.
Ross Colin, Music SA
Live review from The Wheatsheaf Hotel Sept 2014, Gary Brown.
THE YEARLINGS - All the Wandering (2014)
By Hayward Williams.
For some time now, The Yearlings have been calmly carving out a giant piece of real estate in the Aussie folk-music landscape. How do you do that? You find out what works for you, then you refine and polish it until it’s perfect. ‘All the Wandering’ is another gem to add to an already glittering catalog.
I toured with The Yearlings a while back, and was lucky enough to hear some of these tunes in their infancy; it was an exclusive and wonderful surprise when I heard the finished product. The changes didn’t surprise me—it was more that the songs became exactly what I’d hoped for; the kind of surprise that’s rare in this life.
Chris Parkinson, as usual, has created a sonic palate that rivals anything they’re churning out in east Nashville. With his signature guitar tone and simple yet lush arrangements, the songs jump out of the speakers and remind the listener that they’re a part of something and it’s OK to come along for the ride. His tenor flickers above the tunes and meshes, as always, with Robyn Chalklen.
Ms Chalklen happens to be one of my favorite writers. She fills the spaces between every perfect guitar lick from Chris and every meandering swell inside a The Yearlings tune with her hypnotic prose, delivered with a confidence that carries an addictive fragility. It’s fashionable to say that someone is underrated in this music universe, but Robyn Chalklen is an undervalued treasure, to be sure.
In ‘All the Wanderings’, individual crafts come together to create a polished river stone, so picking standout tracks on this record is an act of futility. Press play—they’ve taken care of everything.
Review written by Hayward Williams for Mojo Junction – ‘Artists on Artists’
In Daily review, Heather Taylor Johnson
True to their namesake – young horses – the Yearlings, as one of Adelaide’s more stylish duos, have been solidifying their lonesome-cowboy sound over the last decade and playing it to appreciative audiences all over the country, as well as internationally.Complete with lyrics of longing and a steel guitar, their music is steeped in the American tradition, resonating with a heavy south- western desert lament and a hint of Appalachia groundedness.
The songs on All the Wandering celebrate the mellow twang of an outlaw as much as the slow chord of a lost love, and to stick to theme, there’s mention of whiskey, trains and faded jeans. I’m so reminded of the Southern Rock tradition of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the lesser-praised Bad Company, that the usually annoying fade-out was somehow more than appropriate in “Way Out East”; it was the thing that I didn’t know I was craving.
To add to the authenticity of their style of vintage country roots, this fifth studio album was recorded on a vintage track tape machine, thanks to sound engineer Mick Wordley. Whether or not that comes across to the average music lover is not really the point. The point is that All the Wandering is the real thing, not just mimicking a style, but making a place for The Yearlings within its ample fold.
Robyn Chalklen’s is an emotionally hungry voice, while Chris Parkinson’s carries the ghost of Jerry Garcia in its depth of vulnerability and wisdom. The first two tracks – the title song “All the Wanderings” and “Heart of it All” – show as much (and bassist Harry Brusand drummer BJ Barker should not go unnoticed). My favourite track is “Blue Sky Boy”, perhaps because it’s so uplifting in its desolate way and I feel somehow saved (or perhaps it’s because the Blue Sky Girls sing backing vocals and the symmetry in that is uncommonly light- hearted?).
Look out for The Yearlings at the Wheaty – they tend to gig in the sorts of pubs where finely crafted beer is not only served, but drunk. So does this mean discerning beer drinkers like good music? I’m going to say yes. I’m also going to tell you to ditch your beers and grab your whiskies when you settle into this CD.
It’s an atmospheric, narrative-driven compilation, full of character and place, and getting drunk to it on fiery spirits seems somehow appropriate.
Music SA review
The addition of brass on various songs including 'Heart Of It All' and 'Blue Sky Boy' adds considerably to the fullness of sound and the quality of the arrangements, while never overpowering them. The latter track also has somewhat of an allstar cast of backing vocalists including Taasha Coates and Emily Davis. Though probably best known for their work as a duo, Chris Parkinson & Robyn Chalklen are joined on the album by other guests including drummer BJ Barker and Australian music veteran Harry Brus on bass, thereby adding further to the musical possibilities. The almost countrypop sound of Soldiers Fortune is one such example; Brus' bass work enhances the song as expected but despite his pedigree (including work with Renee Geyer, Billy Thorpe, Joe Walsh et al) he is very much a team player here, with just the right feel for each track.
Lead vocals are pretty much evenly split between Parkinson and Chalklen and though all songs are cocredited, I wonder if the vocals are taken by the main writer of the song? Other personal favourites include Way Out East with its brooding feel and Parkinson's lead guitar work that is always interesting to follow one can easily imagine him swaying and coaxing the sound from his instrument as he does on stage! The rapid fadeout is a little disconcerting, however. 'Plain Gold Ring' is another song that stretches out but ends suddenly, though it adds rather funky bass and guitar work to the musical mix.
A song such as the closing track 'Breathless Eric' has what might be called a typical Yearlings melody but its qualities are brought to the fore again with the brass and full backline. Even so, I imagine any of the songs on 'All The Wandering' would work just as well in whatever format they are played duo, band or anywhere in between. The sound of the album is warm and natural, and the hand printed cover is appropriate housing for the music contained therein.
To have reached the milestone of album #5 is a significant achievement. For it to show a continued musical development while staying true to the band's basic sound is also a positive indicator that The Yearlings know what they're good at, and are unafraid to branch out and take it as far as it can comfortably go.
Post To Wire
Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson are the core duo of The Yearlings and this, their fifth album, finds them at the top of their game. All The Wandering is the kind of album that fires melancholic shots straight to your heart. With weeping pedal steel courtesy of Lost Ragas’ Shane Reilly alongside a raft of other great musicians they create ten absorbing songs to get lost in. From glacial late night shuffles to the tear-stained vocal harmonies riding ‘Plain Old Ring’s‘ soulful groove, this is Americana at its finest; rich and soulful with just the right amount of lonely heartache.
Aspire Magazine interveiw
Studio record number 5! How does it feel to have All The Wandering finished and sitting alongside the rest of your work?
It feels unbelievably good to have it done and to be out on the road playing it. And of course we're a little bit proud. You could say we've got quite a back catalogue now.
Can you tell me about the making of this one in terms of how the two of you worked together in studio? Was there anything about your creative dynamic which changed significantly?
Rob and I spent every Tuesday and Wednesday over four weeks in winter 2013 recording songs at our studio My Sweet Mule, as a duo, just to see what we had and whether or not those sessions would turn out to be our new record. We recorded live to our cranky MCI 1 inch 8 track tape machine and transferred it digitally to pro tools via a little 8 channel Neve sidecar. We did a bunch of overdubbing and listening and we quickly discovered that we wanted a little more diesel in the tank. We started hearing a horn section on some tunes and female vocals on others and what the songs really wanted was a fat groovy rhythm section, these were not just folk songs to be sung as a duo, they demanded more.
In what way would you say All the Wandering as an album, will stand out from the rest? Is there a specific track/s you think capture this?
From the initial idea for this record, I knew we needed horns. We wanted to have ,b>Harry Brus on bass because of his incredible sub bass tone. Together with our drummer BJ Barker, that tone became almost like the heartbeat of the sonic landscape, we were going for a 'widescreen' sound, fat drums, clear acoustic guitars and atmospheric electric guitars. We wanted horns, a female choir,
improvisation sections and delicate vocals and harmonies. We wanted it to drip with atmosphere.
What has been the best/most challenging element of working with each other over the years?
Best thing is that we get to make music together, we get on really well (like peas) and we get to share an amazing experience which takes us across the globe sometimes and into peoples lounge rooms and it gives us the room to grow and develop a sound (our sound). Most challenging would be keeping sane in this crazy lifestyle and being positive when the industry can stack up against you.
You guys are going to be on the road through July into August ‐ what do you enjoy most about being on the road, especially with new material in tow?
It's great to present new songs to your audience and a bit scary, you hope they like it as much as your older material, it’s a challenge to play songs after they have been recorded because you don’t want play them just like the record ‐ they need to find a life in a live setting and that is the challenge.
Is there any specific town or venue you're looking forward to getting back to?
Really just looking forward to each show, it’s always great to reconnect with fans along the way. I guess the shows at the end of our tour back in Adelaide at the Wheatsheaf Hotel will be a bit special because we will have the horn section and full band with us.
What will the rest of your year be looking like once this tour wraps?
There is recording and production work in our studio My Sweet Mule for a couple of acts coming up, there will be a small tour with an American songwriter called Hayward Williams, songwriting and making some plans to get overseas again, hopefully the States.
The Music, Michael Smith
It's been four years since The Yearlings delivered their last album, Sweet Runaway, but they're finally back with their fourth, All The Wandering, another subtly sublime collection of alt-country/folk-based observations on life. “We try to create a bit of space in the lyrics as well as the music,” explains singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Parkinson, his singer/songwriter/guitarist life partner Robyn Chalklen the other half of The Yearlings.
“We actually recorded the whole album in winter last year as a duo, just Robyn and I, and I guess we probably had close to 45 songs that we thought were, a) good enough, and b) finished enough as well, and so we whittled it down and whittled it down, and during the process of recording at home in our studio
we kind of realised that we were both hearing different things and bigger things and more of it. That's when we started thinking about a horn section for this record, which is new for us, and a female choir, and also bringing in Harry Brus on bass, who's an old mate of mine from the old Sydney days.”
Parkinson met Brus, who's been around since the '60s and played with pretty much everyone, in the early '80s, and the juxtaposition of a rock/funk bass player with a country drummer, BJ Barker, from Kasey Chambers' band, gives the new album a little twist.
Another important element in the making of the album was Adelaide-based engineer/producer Mick Wordley, who recorded and produced all three previous Yearlings albums. “He's been there right from the start. His involvement with this one was probably a bit more intensive. We'd get together with him on Wednesday nights and over a bottle of red we'd whittle down and edit and just try to put things in a tidier form where arrangement-wise they just worked. So it was good to work with him in that way too, we hadn't done that before, and he has some really good ideas.”
Four albums and 12 years into a musical career together and Chalklen and Parkinson are yet to sit in the same room together and co-write a song from scratch. “Every now and then we'll come up with ideas together, like when we're just playing together and working on songs or whatever, but I guess we never really sit down together and say, 'Let's write a story about, you know, X,' and start from scratch. Why that doesn't happen I don't know. That's just how it works for us. What I love about writing songs with Rob is when it's really in the formative stages. That's when we often get our best ideas. So I've not heard anything of hers, we'll always record that version. We'll often find there'll be a little guitar lick or a vocal thing that we do which we just carry on because that'll be that little gold nugget that you sometimes find in a song. Then we'll actually have to work at that part.”
Album review by Tom Jellet
"The Yearlings' previous albums have hinted at great things to come and Highway Dancing may just be it. Recorded in Brooklyn over four days and featuring members of New York band Ollabelle, this is indeed a fully operational Yearlings. From the opening title track, Robyn Chalklen's laid-back, fragile vocals effortlessly counterpoint partner Chris Parkinson, particularly when he takes the lead on tracks such as Will You Be Ready? and Sheets of the Night. Impressive also is the songwriting, and Don't Feel Kind and Precious Time are standouts. The presence of guitarist Larry Campbell, fresh from producing Levon Helm's latest, Dirt Farmer, permeates the album, putting this Yearlings effort into another league. From the pedal steel on The Waiting Song Campbell goes on to provide everything from dobro to fiddle to mandolin. While the wider scope that additional musicians afford give The Yearlings a change to spread their wings, the most obvious impression throughout Highway Dancing is the great time The Yearlings have had putting it together."
by: Phil Catley October 2010
Chris Parkinson and Robyn Chalklen are The Yearlings and “Sweet Runaway” is the fifth release from this local alt Country / folk duo. This collection is well produced, the mix is top-notch, and the instruments deliver a sound that I can only describe as juicy and oaken-honey soaked.
John Mellencamp recently released a collection of songs recorded live-to-tape, with many songs recorded through a single microphone, and all recorded in lo-fi settings such as the hotel room where Robert Johnson quietly scratched his legend into history. John declared his protest against modern over-production by presenting a collection of tunes suffering from digital poverty.
Quite separately, down in Maslin Beach, The Yearlings pulled out an old 8 track tape recorder, mic’d up the room to create their own home-made studio, and invited some friends to join them in recording some homespun tunes. Throw a light blanket of tiple, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ, banjo, and accordion over the understated backing tracks to create an almost formless but sublime blend of perfect moods. The background tape hiss that bookends each song is a welcome old friend to those of us raised on cassettes and records, and while audiophonic perfectionists may protest that modern technology has rendered it unnecessary, there’s a fair old argument to be made that an analogue tape adds a sonic dimension that the digital studio just cannot capture.
The songs tend to play on mood, developing the harmonic vocal interplay between Robyn and Chris. Opening with Butterfly, Robyn delivers a laconic meandering over a still meadow in spring. This is an acoustic shuffle of gently pulsing tremolo, late nights, lonely mornings and broken hearts. Distraction is Chris’s riposte – a gentle, rolling chord progression weaving between the fire-side and the patio. Eerie, and redolent of dark events, open spaces, and gentle foreboding, Robyn caresses us through Drive All Night, a lost highway soundtrack of tremolo and distant slide guitar.
Like a swollen river, once these songs start they just keep on rolling; peacefully rolling. Wildflower Girl is a slightly sad duet, followed by Chris’ slightly more upbeat Shotgun Eye and Sweet Runaway. The remaining 6 songs consistently deliver more of the perfection crafted in the first half of the album.
This is a superbly balanced collection of songs, the packaging is professional with lyrics, liner notes, and a picture of the family dog included; this latest offering from The Yearlings is well worth a listen.
Album review by Bernard Zuel
This South Australian duo have steadily expanded their sonic palette over the course of their four albums, bringing in more instruments and more rhythm to what is brooding country folk. They’ve also opened up their sound along the way from the intensely close atmosphere with which they began to Sweet Runaway’s outdoors-and-sometimes-almost-sunny-too feel. No one’s saying they’re bouncing but you can imagine a smile not being afraid to appear. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the way Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson can get to the nub of an emotion. Chalklen’s voice can haunt you for days and Parkinson carries with him more than a hint of tension. It’s a good combination, bringing out the Neil Young which has always been under their croweater skin.
Album review by Tom Jellett, Sept 2010
SOMETIMES the difficult third album isn’t really that difficult at all. In the case of South Australia’s The Yearlings, the third album is where it all comes together. Recorded in their home studio south of Adelaide, there seems to be a comfort and an ease . With the confident and self-assured Sweet Runaway, hopefully Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson can be free of the easy comparison to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings; this is more Buddy and Julie Miller territory. Mainly acoustic, save for a few songs garnished by Hammond, Wurlitzer and slide guitar, it is as intimate as a living room and pitched perfectly for an album that will be constantly revisited. All the country staples are here, including beautiful harmonies. Most of the themes generally involve heartbroken lovers going away or having to travel a long way to see each other again. In the case of Drive All Night, you really hope the person at the other end will be pleased to see them after all that driving. Highlights include Distraction, Lay Your Head Down and the not-to-be-messed-around-with and potentially lethal Sally Anne.
Sweet Runaway Album review
Patrick Lang Sept 2010
Local roots/alt country duo The Yearlings possess the rarest of qualities – the ability to send shivers up your spine with a single note. That, combined with the vocal harmonies that are liable to make you weep with joy, have thrust the twosome to the height of our local scene, and with the sublime ‘Sweet Runway’, that seems unlikely to change.
To a certain extent, studio album number four is more of the same, which is certainly not a bad things when you’re as talented as Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson. However, this is the first album to be recorded at their homemade studio ‘My Sweet Mule’ (which can be found in the lad back surrounds of Maslin Beach) which results in an even more tranquil sound than usual.
When the album does pick up its groove, like in the slinky Drive All Night, it highlights just how much The Yearlings have been thinking about their tonal palette; shimmering tremolo guitars and touches of Hammond organ delicately surround the rhythms, adding depth and shade. They’ve also started to explore bluegrass more fully here, and the resulting track Your Sweet Town ends up being one of the highlights, based on a circular banjo figure and a catchy rhythm.
As with any Yearlings record though, the meat here is in the silky-smooth balladry, and it’s here in force, from the delicate Butterfly to the blues-tinged, redemptive and unbelievably beautiful Still Got The Taste. As always, the intertwining vocals will make parts of your body shiver that you didn’t know existed, and in the case of the dark, bluesy Wildflower Girl, will shake your very soul.
Best of all though, ‘Sweet Runaway’ evokes the Australian landscape – and not the stereotypical one the tourism industry constantly tries to shove down our throats. Rather, this Australia is often harsh, often bleak, but always beautiful, perfectly rendered and an utter delight.
Sweet Runaway review
Martin Jones August 2010
From the moment Chris’s tremolo treated electric guitar shimmers to life in the first seconds, the album sounds fantastic – unhurried, breathing, spacious and warm. Recorded in their own sweet time at their own sweet home (My Sweet Mule Recording Lounge) in South Australia, Sweet Runaway is the perfect balance of the full band arrangements explored in New York (for the Highway Dancing record) and Chris Parkinson and Robyn Chalklen’s trademark airy minimalism.
I remember reading a description of Gillian Welch’s song ‘My Morphine’ as sonically capturing the sensation of the title’s drug. Parkinson and Chalklen have specialised in mining that musical sensation - languorous, woozy and consoling.
Though there are a couple of more boisterous tempos within Sweet Runaway (‘Shotgun Eye’), all remains surreally gentle. Credit is due to BJ Barker, Richard Coates, Lyndon Gray and Mick Wordley (who also engineered the sessions) for such sympathetic alliance.
The pair shares singing duties, weaving in and out of leads and harmonies at will, and though you wouldn’t say either has a remarkable voice, they’ve found something that is honest and their own. Here you can hardly imagine anyone else singing these songs.
**** Tom Jellett, Weekend Australian
Bernard Zuel, Sydney Morning Herald
“The dark, bluesy Wildflower Girl, will shake your very soul.”
Patrick Lang, dB Magazine
“From the moment Chris’s tremelo treated electric guitar shimmers to life in the first seconds, the album sounds fantastic – unhurried, breathing, spacious and warm.”
“Sweet Runaway evokes the Australian landscape –harsh, often bleak, but always beautiful, perfectly rendered and an utter delight.”
Patrick Lang, dB Magazine
“There is an almost indescribable musical lexicon that surrounds a Yearlings performance, and it is one that can barely be described, it must be seen and heard for one’s self.”
“Like a swollen river, once these songs start they just keep on rolling; peacefully rolling. This is a superbly balanced collection of songs.”
Phil Catley, MusicSA
“Sweet Runaway is a terrific album for all you Roots fans out there. Beautiful harmonies and expert song-writing make for one of the best Roots albums to be released in a while.”
David G, CrossCulture
“The Yearlings express the lyrical truth of storylines about real life that poetically tug at the heartstrings...”
Jimmy Little, living legend
“Bony guitars, tales of lost friends, all imbued with harmonies to turn your spinal fluid into ice water...”
Jason Walker, Juice Magazine
“Like all the best lonesome songs, from Foster down to Townes Van Zandt, in the end it leaves you feeling you aren’t so alone in the world after all.” Noel Mengel, Daily Telegraph