Cheyenne, Conner Youngblood's First Album in Five Years, is a Folk
Evan Dale // Aug 20, 2018
We should all be thankful for Cheyenne: Conner Youngblood’s first full-length album in six years. The soft-spoken songwriter has always carried himself through his music with an unmistakably laid-back and mellow demeanor, but it seems that as time has passed, as his career has pushed forward, and as the music world has changed dramatically, he has simultaneously unearthed a texture even more calming and smooth and put it all on display in his new charming, low-fidelity project.
The mainstream has in large part, lost touch with the awe of this world, but Youngblood has taken a page from the book of the recently self-freed Raury and gone from the gold-strewn studios of Los Angeles to Mother Earth in search of his truest artistry. A return to the simplistic, the pure, the inspiration of nature drives Cheyenne and makes it one of the most inventive and quality acoustic-folk-indie projects of the year.
It’s an hour of solace – of auditory meditation – that even as more and more music drowns us by way of streams and clouds, we seem to be increasingly parched of. But, like most hour-long acoustic projects, there is so much more to it than first meets the ear. Youngblood isn’t only a master of his impeccably ethereal vocal delivery and also a very apt strummer of the acoustic six-string but is also an inventive creator who brings his broad background and stylistically-wide sound to a scene that, in all honesty, could use a little more zest.
For the fans of his previous work, Cheyenne might at first sound like a relatively unedited, psychoactively-influenced take on his prior exploits; For fans of the acoustic and folk, the rash experimentation that Youngblood folds into an otherwise standardesque indie weave is probably somewhat jarring yet inventively welcomed. And for everyone new to his music or the style, it’s simply damn good and damn relaxing. The point is that no matter who is listening and what their tastes may desire, there is something in Cheyenne for them, and that’s what, the project being a folk sort of deliverable, makes it so surprising.
The acoustically-profound sector of the greater music spectrum tends to push a lot of people away. It’s not surprising why. In a musical era defined most be the absurdly high-energy and high-fidelity, a return to the woeful bliss of autotune, and a lyrically-unimportant pop scene, a sound more wholesome, timeless, less modern-culturally specific can be perceived as unexciting. Better described as mellow, maybe the vibe is something more of what all of us really need.
Our lives are stressful. Our music doesn’t always need to be.
And from start to finish, Cheyenne is anything but. It’s warm and cheerful. It’s solemn and soft. It’s wide-ranging in its push towards Youngblood’s own emotional boundaries. But those bounds never eclipse any sort of emotion that could be considered energetic, hi-fi, or otherwise intense. It’s calming.
Yet, it still retains Youngblood’s storied approach as a bold and experimental artist. His voice has long lent itself to the sounds of others looking for an irreplaceable set of vocal chords. Bold has long been part of his definition, and even in such a new and extended take on his own sound, he certainly doesn’t lose that trait.
It’s bold for himself; bold for his new positioning in the acoustic and folk realm; bold when weighed against his endeavors more closely associated with hip-hop, electronic, and soul; and bold in its very construct as an electronically-laden, ethereal-sung, experimental folk-acoustic album.
A large majority of the tracks included seem to take shape of the more acoustically-traditional class, pronounced with pleasant guitar strokes and underscored by Youngblood’s touching vocals.
But then there are tracks like his previously released single, Pizza Boy which takes on a more lighthearted vibe (and title) setting the stage for just one of Cheyenne’s many subtle mood shifts.
Also released prior to the larger project, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and The Birds of Finland possess something more of an ambiently acoustic, electronically-influenced experimentation that invites moments of deeper relaxation and internal thought amidst an album that already inspires such states.
At last, there is Sulphur Springs which carries with it a greatly experimental but still very much Conner Youngblood style – bound by edited vocals (a rarity for an artist with his vocal prowess).
Cheyenne unfolds in a direction and a manner unlike anything else to come out recently. It can be seen as a bridge between whatever broad strokes of Youngblood’s long-existing fan base call home to and the modern schools of the acoustic, the folk, and the indefinable indie-mellowists. It is, at its core, undeniably a product of the latter, but the excitement and the innovative spirit with which Youngblood has organized its entirety grants it a special kind of connective tissue from electronic, soul, and hip-hop’s past to folk’s intriguing and this far unmolded future.