By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Over the past eight years, Denver-based country/blues-punk trio the Yawpers have been establishing themselves as a harder-edged alternative to the type of earnest indie-folk that the region has become known for thanks to the popularity of the Lumineers. Lyricist and guitarist/singer Nate Cook already had a history playing with fellow guitarist Jesse Parmet in other bands when he invited his regular collaborator to join him for an open mic night back in 2011.
Initially playing strictly acoustic guitars and accompanied by a drummer (a role eventually filled on a permanent basis by Noah Shomberg), the trio would develop a sound that brought together elements of blues — thanks largely to Parmet’s furious slide playing — and outlaw country delivered with raucous punk energy. Taking their name from a Walt Whitman poem, the Yawpers built a strong local following with their own dates and slots supporting a variety of acts including the Reverend Horton Heat, the Black Angels and Crackers as well as touring with country punks the Supersuckers and pioneering LA rock revivalists the Blasters.
The band self-released its debut album Capon Crusade in 2012 and would eventually be signed to noted Americana-focused imprint Bloodshot Records after label heads witnessed one of the trio’s incendiary performances at South By Southwest in Austin. The band’s first recording for Bloodshot — American Man — came out to wide acclaim in 2015.
The band toured through much of the following year, but still found time to record it’s ambitious follow-up effort at Chicago’s Reliable Recordings, what Cook described as “this ’50s shoe-box studio.” Working with famed former Replacements bassist and current Bash and Pop leader Tommy Stinson as producer/instrumental contributor, the Yawpers delivered Boy in a Well in 2017.
A concept album with a tragic storyline that follows a young mother forced to abandon her bastard newborn in World War I France (complete with an accompanying comic book illustrated by J.D. Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers), the new record finds the trio offering it’s most wide ranging collection of songs yet, spanning from the delicate, poignant ballads “Room with a View” and “God’s Mercy” to the surf-tinged rocker “No Going Back” and the slow-building blues screamer “Mon Nom.” The group also released a 7-inch single that features a scorching cover of the classic Motörhead anthem “Ace of Spades.”
Last April, the band issued it’s latest effort for Bloodshot, the positively savage Human Question. Recorded mostly live with limited overdubs at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago with the help of previous studio collaborator Alex Hall (best known for his work with JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge), the album kicks off with the ferocious opening rocker “Child of Mercy” and only lets up on the intensity for occasional stripped-down (but no less potent) confessional tunes like “Man as Ghost,” “Carry Me” and the simmering, funky bluesy groove of “Reason to Believe.” Powered by the breakneck beats of new drummer Alex Koshak, the album stands as the Yawpers’ most powerful release yet. The trio returns to the Bay Area to play its blistering new music at two shows this week, headlining Brick & Mortar Tuesday night with SF roots-punk outfit Alvie & the Breakfast Pigs before heading south to play Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz Wednesday with established local Americana crew Thanks Buddy.
Tuesday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m. $12-$15
Brick & Mortar Music Hall
Tuesday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m. $8-$12