Wilderness Machine is the debut album from Irish crooner Stephen Young and his merry band of musicians. It’s a varied effort, straddling the lines between country, folk, rock and (at times) blues. There are gems to be found here for sure … if you have the patience to wait through some of the slower moments. Opening track (and debut single) Coke And Rum is one such gem. Mean guitar, Stephen’s wailing vocals and harmonica easily make this the album’s finest moment. It finds itself walking the tightrope between rock and country to great effect. It’s the one off occasion on this record where you will find yourself wanting to rock out.
Sadly though, the remainder of the album doesn’t ever really match the fast paced catchiness of this initial tune. Fairbanks takes a distinctly mellower and more country led sound. Having said that, its violin heavy chorus and Stephen’s melodic vocals do make it stand out amidst the other alternative country numbers found here. It has a beautiful quality that’ll make it a permanent fixture on your play list.
Hundred Years Old shares the same melancholic beauty as its predecessor, which makes the album’s plunge into the blues of Heart Race all the more startling. It’s a refreshing interlude in this catalogue of country and folk. More than that, it demonstrates how versatile Stephen Young and co. can be when they feel like it. This lot are without a doubt a talented bunch, it’s just a shame we don’t see more golden moments like this on Wilderness Machine.
Did I Let You Down makes a hasty return to the bands comfort zone. Bereaved violin and lazy vocals on the part of Stephen abound. It’s a fairly lifeless number that you can’t help but lose interest in. Josie and I doesn’t really rectify the situation. At this stage you begin to wonder if your perseverance will pay off, as it all begins to sound a bit samey.
Fall into Night does, however, come to our rescue with an attention grabbing crescendo of violin, guitar and mandolin. A much needed shot of adrenaline, your attention is reawakened and fully focused on the blues tinted quality of Dreamless Man. The harmonica infused track does much to lift your spirits and leave you hoping Stephen and co. will close with a bang after all. This unfortunately is not the case. To Michelle is yet another sleepy, drifting country number. It feels like something of a let down, having glimpsed what the troupe are capable of when they put their collective minds to it.
There are definitely moments of great potential here. You need look no further than the highlights enveloped in Coke And Rum, Fairbanks, Hundred Years Old and Heart Race to see what Stephen Young And The Union are really capable of. As a debut Wilderness Machine falls somewhat flat. It’s not a bad record as such, just not very memorable, which comes as something of a shame as they clearly have what it takes to be so.