Acclaimed Sheffield based folk band The Young'uns bring Tiny Notes to Firth Hall this week
and live on Freeview channel 276
Earlier this month on April 7, 2023, The Young’uns finally unveiled their latest studio album, Tiny Notes. What followed was probably their most powerful, profound and emotionally affecting release so far.
Twenty years ago you might have thought it a far-fetched prediction. But today there’s no denying that 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 Eagle who literally stumbled across 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.
And the rest? Well, you could say that is history… something the trio touch upon with long lingering and soulful folk songs that regale us in retellings of what tragic periods in time, all while maintaining a grounding, humility and an enduring sense of hope in those moments where one could be forgiven for being entombed in darkness.
Ahead of the release of such an aurally impactful body of work, The Young’uns Sean Cooney spent a little time talking about the project and the bands UK tour, as well as their upcoming Sheffield show at Firth Hall.
Sean is really looking forward to the Sheffield, his now adopted home city, show now, stating that, “We’ve never played at Firth Hall, we’ve got about 300 or so people coming, so it should be a good gig.”
“Our previous studio album in 2016 was called Strangers, it was the first time we sort of spoke consistently about real, modern, folk stories. It was the impact of that spurred me on to do more. There was a song on that album called ‘Be The Man’, which was the true story of Matt Ogston who lost his fiance Nas to suicide. It was all to do with his religious family’s discovery of his sexuality, an incredibly tragic story. Matt has this amazing story of hope, he goes into schools, churches and community groups spreading the story himself. Since we started performing it, we’ve had many people say how much it had helped them and how it meant so much to them. It was that kind of impact that I really now aspire to I suppose, knowing what effect that the song can have on people’s lives.
“The other thing is that the impact of that song is that we were in the privileged position where people were approaching us, and asking us to tell their stories. It’s just a huge honour, as well as being something which fills you with great trepidation too.
“On this album (Tiny Notes), there’s a song called Tim Burman and it was actually Tim’s sister, Rachel, who wrote to us a few years ago about her brother who was killed in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. She was asking about a song about him, and she said at the end of this incredible email, ‘I don’t see it as a sad song, I see it as a love song. He was on the plane on his way to New York to spend Christmas with his girlfriend, so it’s a song about their love and the also the love of the Lockerbie families who are continuing to fight for answers’. In many ways the songs and stories arrive to us, from people asking them to be written.”
You can listen to the interview in its entirety on the Chris Talks Music podcast, which you can currently subscribe to for free at: https://anchor.fm/chris-talks-music
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.
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 the USA, Canada and Australia, played Glastonbury Festival, as well as scooping 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 via their acclaimed stage show The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff, based on the life of a Teesside local hero.
Produced by Andy Bell on the Hudson Records label, Tiny Notes takes its title from the heartfelt and heartwarming (yes, both!) handwritten messages of hope that Paige Hunter tied to the railings of Sunderland’s Wearmouth Bridge — a simple yet affecting view also depicted on the album’s cover. A location where tragically many people decided to end their lives, Paige’s notes are thought to have saved the lives of some thirty people in the North East and such a seemingly small yet effective gesture of hope inspired many others to leave similar messages on bridges all around the world.
Described as bold, profound and resonant it showcases the ever growing talents of ‘premier league songwriter’ Sean Cooney who says that writing songs about real, ordinary heroes has become ‘a personal passion’.
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, this new album is probably The Young’uns’ strongest album to date. The notes might be tiny, but the songs are towering and you’ll be lost in the long lingering memories of tales of tragedy told with such compassion, it’s hard not to be touched.
Tiny Notes will be showcased via an extensive UK & Irish tour (April-June 2023), including a return to London’s Union Chapel. You’ll be able to see The Young’uns at Firth Hall, Sheffield, on Friday, April 21, 2023.
You can book tickets to the show here: https://www.theyounguns.co.uk/live
The Young’uns latest album, Tiny Notes, is out now.
The Young’uns will be continuing their UK tour following their Sheffield performance at the following:
20 May Dublin Pavilion Dun Laoghaire
26 May Gateshead Sage
27 May Cleckheaton Town Hall
28 May Bristol – The Redgrave Theatre
30 May Oxford North Wall
31 May Cardiff Acapela
1 June Lincoln Drill Hall
2 June Manchester – The Stoller Hall