[sic] Magazine

Night Beds – Country Sleep

When you consider the fervent scramble at the bleeding edge of music making, it’s remarkable just how often the head can still be turned by simple song-craft done well. Little more than a tender vocal and some ambling chords and often one can be hooked. Enter Colorado native and Nashville resident Winston Yellen , who goes by the stage-name Night Beds .

Sometimes minimal to the point of a cappella, sometimes indulging his tales of torment with a flash of reverb, his promising debut LP Country Sleep really sounds as authentic as it should coming from a man recently job- and girlfriendless and, fresh from moving out of his car, living under the roof of a house in the woods previously owned by a certain Johnny Cash and June Carter .

Country checklist complete, Yellen needs and has a weapon to fight his way out of MOR singer-songwriting territory. Too young for the ravages of smoke and rye to have taken their toll, he possesses instead a striking kinda-falsetto that opens the album entirely unaccompanied, developing into a creaky howl by the closing bars of “Faithful Heights”. This is not to say that that from time to time he doesn’t let the music do the talking – not at all – it’s just that he possesses that intrinsic skill to know when to let pregnant silence rule.

As such, there’s a rampant fragility to the majority of his work. “Lost Springs” and “Was I For You?” are full of the sort of alt, rain-down-the-window pining popular with Twilight soundtracks. The closer, “Tenn”, is dangerously sad stuff in which to bury your face in the nearest pillow – Yellen’s explosion of emotion with 90 seconds to go burning with anger, hate, optimism and love. There will be those for whom this track will truly offer catharsis in their time of need, clinging to Yellen’s choice words until they break – double inference intended.

Just as Justin Vernon didn’t dedicate all of For Emma to crying self-pity though, neither does Yellen here – his surprising “Wanted You In August” and its smoky bass and sax a product of late-night arrangement and latter-day Bon Iver exploits. It’s far from unwelcome also, just as the nodding country and twanging pedal steel of “Borrowed Time” is a lovely contribution, reminiscent of the homely goodness of people like M Ward .

Yellen has a knack for sparkling song-writing too. Ryan Adams , for example, might like to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror upon hearing the sweeping but understated majesty of “Cherry Blossoms” – a track that remains less Heartbreaker and more heartbroken all the same. The free-flowing single, “Ramona”, even rounds out this sound into the work of a full band – string accompaniment and all.

Though resolutely stamped with the work of others, Yellen’s pain and talent are entirely his own. Time will tell if the empowering inspiration of misery has produced a one-off, or if we’re on the cusp of welcoming a mainstay to the genre. Either way, Country Sleep will be held as an impressive opening statement, one likely to weather the fluctuating tastes of the modern age.

Advised downloads: “Tenn” and “Cherry Blossoms”.

~Country Sleep is out now on Dead Oceans .~