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Tiny Notes – The Young’uns

Feb 22, 2023

Even a casual consideration of the news today seems to reveal a world full of people doing harm to others. Never mind the cruel abuse perpetrated by social media trolls that appears ubiquitous online. What it needs is that the empathetic acts of kindness which also occur get highlighted to help redress the balance. Step forward The Young’uns.

Stumbling across the folk music scene in their homeland of North East England in 2003 set this trio along a musical path that has steadily increased their following. It has also seen Sean Cooney, songwriter extraordinaire in the band, develop a passion – or should that be obsession – for providing songs that reveal the compassion surrounding us.

Their latest release, ‘Tiny Notes’, gathers together a set of eleven such songs interspersed with some brief, solo a capella vocal ‘tiny notes’ from guests Karine Polwart, Anne Lamb and Lucy Farrelł. The song that inspires these notes and, indeed, gives the album its title is a tribute to Paige Hunter who adorns the railings of Wearmouth Bridge with handwritten messages that are aimed at saving those in mental turmoil.

The Young'uns Tiny Notes cover

This title track is also one of a few that benefit from a string section with arrangements courtesy of Jon Boden. It’s something of a departure for The Young’uns who have become renowned for their unadorned vocals and, though the strings sweeten the overall sound, the messages in his storytelling remain at the heart of Cooney’s songwriting. This time out, the subjects under scrutiny include the brave fathers of ‘Three Dads Walking’ who tragically lost their daughters but determinedly walked the length and breadth of the country to raise the public awareness of those susceptible to suicidal thoughts. Other subjects include a love song for a young man killed in the Lockerbie bombing on ‘Tim Burman’. ‘Lyra’ is a beautiful lament for Lyra McKee, an investigative journalist who was tragically killed observing a riot in Derry. Also from Derry, there is Richard Moore whose self titled song tells of how he was blinded by an army bullet though not only went on to befriend the soldier responsible but also raised millions to help children via his charity, Children in Crossfire. Then, there’s the Welsh trauma surgeon, David Nott, who has worked indiscriminately saving lives in the war zones of Syria and Ukraine.

Whilst Cooney is at the creative centre of their work, mention must go to his partners in this vocal trio. On one side, David Eagle’s piano melds well with the strings and his on stage wit has opened up a part-time career in comedy. Meanwhile, on the other side, Michael Hughes is the glue that holds these talented vocalists together in harmony. This new release finds them in assured mood and performing at the top of their game. The introduction of further instrumentation means they’ve added another string to their bow (sorry). Put simply, ‘Tiny Notes’ from The Young’uns is a compassionate tonic for the times.

Steve Henderson

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