Youth In A Roman Field – Of Grit And Grace (Independent)
Sometimes you read a description of a band before you’ve heard them and desperately hope they can live up to expectations. Chicago-based Youth In A Roman Field is one such band. Various websites – mostly their own, it must be said – describe them as multi-instrumentalists and creatives, channeling jazz, folk and classical sounds, performed on a variety of non-rock instruments, with plenty of tales to fire the imagination. My appetite was well and truly whet, and after several spins of “Of Grit And Grace” I’m happy to report complete satisfaction.
Singer-songwriter and bandleader Claire Wellin brings a timelessness to her words, which makes placing her songs nigh on impossible, and the musicians with whom she has surrounded herself are beautifully in accord with her artistic vision.
If comparisons are sought, then Regina Spector, Joanna Newsom and Rachel Unthank all come to mind, but from the opening multi-tracked vocal and violin workout “This Morning”, we’re obviously listening to an original and unique artist. It’s followed by “To Be Free” and Wellin’s vocal is stunningly good; as pure a folk voice as you could wish for, and Scott Stangland’s bells raise a smile, towards the end. “The Wall” brings a little gypsy jazz to the party, and the combination of Stangland’s accordion and Wellin’s violin provides vigorous backing - and both “Little Bird” and “Paper Man” should be making a home for themselves on roots radio. Final track “Mother Mountain” is simply Wellin singing unaccompanied, and it’s a perfect way to end the collection.