American Young – AY

Album Review | Curb Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

American Young are musician songwriter Kirsty Osmunson and producer songwriter Jon Stone.  Already established as writers for Lee Brice, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton and many others this is their first album.  AY was released in the US on Curb Records in 2016 and to celebrate their nomination at the British Country Music Awards it now gets a UK release through Proper.  American Young see themselves as more than a name or a band, rather they define themselves as a movement.  American Young on the album AY and the acts they have written for represent a new movement in the sound and feel of contemporary Country.  Central are the tight vocal harmonies of Kirsty and Jon with jangly guitars on tracks like “God Sends a Train” and “Slow Ride”, fiddle on “Something to You” but the whole album has an electronic pop or RnB sheen.  When you compare the sound of tracks like “Soldiers Wife (Don’t Want You to Go)” on the 2014 American Young EP to the versions on AY you can hear the journey and the change.  There is the same lush pairing of voices, but the 2014 takes are acoustic pop against the 2016 richer deeper sounding, big time anthemic album offerings.  Kirsty Osmunson’s voice, especially on “Hometown Girl” recalls the purity and power of The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams, set against a plucked electric guitar. Jon Stone himself is also blessed with a powerful voice and brings an almost southern rock Kings of Leon snarl to “Slow Ride”.  The song writing is classic country, recalling real moments of love and melancholia, everything flows so smoothly and effortlessly.  “God Sends a Train” one of the stand out tracks on the album recalls the real life devastation Osmunsen endured when her mother survived a car and train collision.  Tracks like American Dream offering a vision of a kind of nostalgic idyll, an antidote to bumper to bumper light polluted modernity have hit written all over them.  What makes this album interesting is the marriage of timeless vocals, classic country song writing, acoustic instrumentation and mainstream modernity.  In the end the elements that go in to a cake, whatever the recipe, are only part of the story, cause in the end all that really matters is the taste.  The packaging of the album, from the iconic graphic of the cover, to the studio shots inside consciously step away from the obvious, there isn’t a big hat or a hand tooled leather boot in plain sight.  The backlit landscape on the back cover and the barn wall background offer more subtle touchstones.  American Young’s AY represents a successful attempt to re-write or step over some of the old musical certainties of Country and present a contemporary sound that sounds now without forgetting its roots.  Altogether a very enjoyable listen.