Album Review – Finnders and Youngberg: FY5

It’s tempting to classify Finnders and Youngberg as a bluegrass band based on the mastery of the fiddle, banjo and mandolin on display in FY5. But those aren’t the only ingredients in this recipe.

“It’s definitely more of a country outfit than what Amy and I were doing… but probably where I was heading all the time–back to my roots,” Mike Finders said recently. He is referring to his previous musical efforts as The Mike and Amy Finders Band, an Eastern Iowa group that enjoyed a critical and popular run of albums and performances in the area dating back to 1997.

FY5 leans much more into what I would call “classic” country than the folksy creek-dipping of The Mike and Amy Finders Band. Album opener “Red Mountain Pass” is a dark tale of peril told from the perspective of a mountain snow plow driver. It recalls songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” or the Jimmy Webb ballad “The Highwayman,” most famously recorded by country supergroup The Highwaymen.

Thanks to the joining of Finders with Aaron and Erin Youngberg, FY5 benefits from the blend of multiple voices and perspectives. When Erin sings, “And the wind hits the grass like the waves on the rocks, and it moans and it howls and it never stops out in Nebraska, Nebraska on the plains,” her pretty soprano convincingly delivers the lonely desperation of the Finders-penned “Nebraska.”

The whole album is enjoyable to listen to in a sitting, but I find myself most drawn to the darker songs that are sung by Mike. The slightly bawdy subtext of the call-and-response freedom anthem “Driftwood” makes me chuckle every time, but it is Mike’s spitting, angry delivery on “Connie” that is probably the most impressive performance on FY5. When asked about the darker tunes, Mike said, “It’s been a couple of years ago now (since the split of Mike and Amy), and it has allowed me to scoop deeper into my own stewpot, work with some amazing musicians and follow through with the tones in my bones much more than before. I think our new album represents this ‘bottom’ of the stew pot, where all the good chunks are.”

So, grab a ladle and serve yourself some of FY5. I reckon you’ll be back for seconds and thirds.