It’s been almost four years since Young Valley laid down a full-length album.
The Jackson-born band released an EP here and there, but, a heart-and-soul, “put our name on this one and be proud of it” record?
That comes only as the product of a well-seasoned touring band who has fallen in love with the music they play – and the audiences that appreciate it.
The resulting record, they say, is a “true-to-form” representation, proudly and simply called “Young Valley.”
The band’s sophomore release was recorded “mostly live” with very little overdubs or retakes, at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi.
Tracked by Matt Patton (Drive-By Truckers, Dexateens) and engineered by Bronson Tew and Starlin Browning, the project features twin brothers Dylan and Zach Lovett and Spencer Thomas – the band’s core – along with three recording and touring members – Ethan Frink on bass and backing vocals; Kell Kellum on pedal steel; and Phill Thompson on violin and keys. Longtime supporter and Rooster’s founder Tim Glenn added harmonica to a track while Anne Freeman adds backing vocals.
“We were sitting five or six guys, mic’d up and ready to track,” says drummer and vocalist Spencer Thomas of the organic Americana meets alt-country project or “twang-a-rang” as the band so dubbed their sound long ago.
“It sounds like the music we grew up on,” says Zach, “music from the 60s and 70s that our parents so willingly and generously shoved down our throats. (That music) was recorded live, before everyone got so concerned with everything having to be so perfect. It was a performance.”
Their last project, “No Filter,” was released in 2014. It seems like forever ago.
“And it was,” Zach says. “We’re the same band playing the same songs but we’re a different band. Just because… time. Time changes everything.”
Jackson crowds will appreciate the familiarity of the new record.
“You’ve heard these songs a thousand times just because we’ve had them that long,” Zach says. “We’ve been cooking them,” he adds, a recipe of musical goodness Kellum once quipped “falls off the bone.”
The band credits past bassist Chris Hassler, who Zach says helped “carry these songs around the country so long, fleshing out the weird parts, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”
While Young Valley’s first record was an independent project, the new project is on Dial Back Sound, Matt Patton and Brownson Tew’s label.
“We’re pleased this our first record on a label – on this label – because it wasn’t micromanaged,” Dylan says. Zach added, “They wanted us because they liked us. They weren’t trying to change us.”
Being “the band” doesn’t mean the job is done after you walk off stage. Zach, Dylan and Spencer are working alongside the efforts of a publicist helping to give their music a broader reach.
“Our publicist said he sent our electronic press kit to 700 outlets,” Dylan says.
As a result, Wide Open Country previewed the entire record online last week.
UK Americana premiered their song “Howlin” and a recent Drew McKercher produced video for the Spencer Thomas fronted “’Til I Cross Your Mind” premiered on PopMatters.com – and won McKercher a Crossroads Film Festival Award.
“Then there’s a magazine in Australia that hit us up about a promo thing,” Spencer says. “And we’re like, ‘Cool, let’s do it!’”
As Young Valley begins to reap the rewards of years of touring and hard work honing their craft, they’re quick to remember it all started at home.
“The reason I went out and played in the first place is that my mom and dad made me feel like it was a good idea,” Zach says. “Later, Jackson and Fondren, did the same thing for the band by encouraging us – by showing up.”
“I don’t know if you know that, Jackson, but you’re giving us and other artists strength to continue by being supportive,” Zach says directly to a recorder, as if talking to each and every person who has bought a CD, a shirt or been to a show.
“If we can do it here and get these people to enjoy it, we can take it somewhere else and they will enjoy it, too.”
Afraid you’ve heard Young Valley one too many times? Spencer says, “(The new album) takes a different turn at every place in the record. “The variety of songs and instrumentation,” he adds, “we don’t want you to be bored listening to this.”
Friday night, at Duling Hall, the band will rip and roar with a “not boring” show with a special guest opener, Cary Hudson.
“Our dad (Mike) was a huge Blue Mountain fan,” Dylan remembers of the Hudson–fronted north Mississippi based band.
“He was always playing Blue Mountain cassettes. So I guess that speaks to the music we make. They were one of the front-runners of that 90s alt-country thing. And to know Cary now – we’ve loved and admired him. It’s cool for him to open up for us.”