SONGS BORN FROM EMPATHY, CRAFTED WITH CARE, FIRED BY HOPE & SHARED WITH JOY
“Hugely captivating-performing with great verve and humour- a brilliant folk act” Stuart Maconie, BBC 6 Music
“Glorious… celebrating the uncelebrated with warmth, vigour and passion” Mojo
Twenty years ago you might have thought it a far-fetched prediction. But today there’s no denying it – The Young’uns have become one of UK folk music’s hottest properties and best-loved acts.
The then teenage friends Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eaglehad literally stumbled over folk music in 2003 in the back room of The Sun Inn in their native Stockton-on-Tees, never knowing that such music existed. They became regulars and, as the youngest people in the room, were dubbed ‘The Young’uns’ – a name that, for better or worse, has stuck.
Building and honing their act, Stockton Folk Club’s star graduates went on to clinch the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Group’title two years running (2015 and 2016), toured their unique act in Canada, America and Australia, played Glastonbury and scooped the coveted Best Album award with the hugely impressive Strangers at the 2018 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. More recently they have touched audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with their stage show The Ballad of Johnny Longstaffbased on the life of a Teesside local hero.
With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies and rapid fire humour (Eagle is now also an award-winning stand-up comedian), they have achieved one of the trickiest balancing acts – an ability to truly ‘make them laugh and make them cry’.
These narrative songs – often moving, never mawkish – cut through the noise and get straight to the heart of the matter, be they personal stories that triggered global headlines or more intimate tales of everyday heroes closer to home.
On April 7, 2023 they will unveil their latest studio album Tiny Notes – probably their most powerful and affecting release to date. Bold, profound and resonant it showcases the ever growing talents of ‘premier league songwriter’ Sean Cooney who says writing songs about real, ordinary heroes has become ‘a personal passion’.
Cooney, who has recently been involved as one of five songwriters in the BBC project 21st Century Folk, has the knack of summing up a story in unflinching, sharply observed but compassionate, heartfelt lyrics.
Together with Hughes and Eagle, he has come up with a collection of folk songs for our time, which takes listeners on a journey from London to Lockerbie, Ireland to Syria, Florida to North Yorkshire. All sensitively arranged by the 30-something trio the songs recall victims of war and terrorism and heroes of the hour, turning the spotlight on injustice and ultimately celebrating love, tolerance and the indomitable human spirit.
Produced by Andy Bell on the Hudson Records label, the release takes its title from 22-year-old Paige Hunter’shandwritten messages of hope tied to the railings of Sunderland’s Wearmouth Bridge (depicted on the album cover) where tragically many people have decided to end their lives. But her notes are thought to have saved the lives of some 30 people in the North East and Paige’s action has inspired others to leave similar messages on bridges around the world.
Alongside The Young’uns strong trademark vocals, folk luminary Jon Boden has arranged soaring, graceful strings for some tracks while Eagle plays fluid piano, making for the band’s most enriched sound yet.
Karine Polwart, Lucy Farrelland Anne Lamb provide the ‘tiny notes’ that briefly punctuate the release.
Coursing a variety of tempos and moods, the 11-track album strides out with Jack Merritt’s Boots remembering the 25 year-old killed in a terror attack at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019; it recalls other young lives lost – Cambridge graduate Tim Burman and Northern Ireland journalist Lyra McKeeand the daughters of Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen who tragically took their own lives and who are remembered in the poignant track Three Dads Walking (already released as a single).
Returning to Ireland the album traces the courageous story of Richard Moore (right) blinded as a child by an army bullet; salutes the strength of the human spirit in a dramatic rescue tale from Panama City Beach, champions the Right to Roam in Trespassers and recounts a Welsh trauma surgeon’s remarkable Syrian story.
While these are often songs prompted by loss and grief they emerge as hopeful, eloquent rainbow-after-rain creations.
Five years on from the group’s award-winning Strangers, the new album is probably The Young’uns strongest suit to date. The notes may be tiny but the songs are towering.
Tiny Noteswill be the first Young’uns album to be pressed on vinyl and will be manufactured at Press On Vinyl, a new plant in the band’s stomping ground of Middlesbrough. LPs are due to be available in late April.
Tiny Notes will be showcased on an extensive UK tour (April-June 2023) including a return to London’s Union Chapel and dates in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin.
CD/Digital – Release – 7th April 2023
LP/Limited Edition Red LP – Release April 2023
TRACK BY TRACK
Jack Merritt’s Boots – Opening the album is a driving song praising the spirit of Jack Merritt who was killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack of November 2019 near London Bridge when he was working at a prisoners’ rehabilitation event organised by Cambridge University.
Tiny Notes – the title track is a gentle, poignant but heart-warming song telling how Paige Hunter’s handwritten notes tied to the railings of Wearmouth Bridge have saved the lives of those in despair – the vocals beautifully backed with piano and strings.
Three Dads Walking –a hopeful a capella song that marks the comradeship of three fathers whose daughters all took their own lives. A tribute to the determination of Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen who walked 300 miles between their homes in Cumbria, Manchester and Norfolk in memory of Sophie, Beth and Emily and then hiked between all the UK Parliaments petitioning governments to include age appropriate suicide prevention on the school curriculum. The Dads have raised over £1 million for suicide prevention charity PAPYRUS. Already released a single, it has been featured on BBC Breakfast TV and ITV News.
Richard Moore – An affecting song based on the extraordinary courage of the Derry-based man blinded as a child in the Troubles by an army bullet. He has since met and befriended the soldier who fired the bullet and raised millions to help youngsters everywhere through his Children in Crossfire charity founded in 1996. https://www.childrenincrossfire.org/
Hand over Hand – Given a rhythmic sea shanty style setting this is a song that tells the story of a dramatic rescue at Florida’s Panama City Beach in 2017 when Jessica and Derek Simmons instigated an 80-strong human chain to save nine members of the Ursrey family swept off their feet by a rip tide.
Lyra – Lyra McKee (above) was a 29 year-old investigative journalist from Belfast who was killed while observing a riot in Derry in April 2019. In a 2017 TED talk she had spoken movingly of the moment she came out to her mother. “Don’t tell me there’s no hope” she said. Her family are still campaigning for #Justice4Lyra.
Trespassers –A jaunty a capella number written for The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff – it tells the story of the Stockton man’s participation in ‘acts of civil disobedience’ in the 1930s advocating the Right to Roam. The most famous trespass took place at Kinder Scout, Derbyshire in 1932 and eventually led to the creation of our National Parks.
Tim Burman – In 2018 Rachel Robertson gave a ‘tiny note’ to The Young ‘uns asking if they might write a song for her brother Tim Burman, one of 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Tim had been New York-bound to spend Christmas with his girlfriend, Rose. Rachel didn’t envisage it as a sad song but a love song and one to keep the Lockerbie families’ campaign for justice alive. A tender song, embroidered with a beautiful string arrangement.
Roseberry Moon – the tender theme continues with this out-and-out love song inspired by a stunning photograph taken on the night of a full moon in February 2021. Says Sean: “Roseberry Topping is a famous hill on the North Yorkshire Moors and a proud landmark for Teessiders like us.” Steven MacDonald’s photo dramatically captured a couple silhouetted in the moon-bathed summit.
The Surgeon – a powerful and moving song of humanity and compassion telling the story of Welsh trauma surgeon David Nott saving the life of a young ISIS fighter in Aleppo, Syria. Nott continues to work in war zones and has recently been lending his skills to the injured in Ukraine.
Iuventa (‘Youth’) – the concluding track is a song about members of a non-governmental organisation from Berlin whose goal is to rescue people drowning in the Mediterranean. They are credited with saving some 14,000 lives. The Iuventa vessel was seized in 2017 and her crew await trial accused of colluding with people smugglers.