Strangers

September 29, 2017
The Young'uns
Hereteu/Proper
Producer: Neil Ferguson

STRANGERS: Released September 29, 2017

“A HOMAGE TO THE OUTSIDER; A EULOGY FOR THE WAYFARER; A HYMN FOR THE MIGRANT”

 Teesside trio The Young’uns have always had the human touch. In the space of little more than a decade – and just three years after giving up their day jobs – they have become one of UK folk music’s hottest properties and best-loved acts.

Stockton Folk Club’s star graduates clinched the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Group’ title two years running (2015 and 2016) and last year saw them spreading the net, taking their unique act and instant audience rapport to Canada, America and Australia.

With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies and rapid fire humour, they have achieved one of the trickiest balancing acts – an ability to truly ‘make them laugh and make them cry’, while cutting straight to the heart of some of our most topical issues.

On September 29 they will unveil their fourth studio album Strangers – playing their strongest suit to date.  Bold, profound and resonant it showcases the growing talents of Sean Cooney, fast becoming one of folk’s finest songwriters.

Together with Michael Hughes and David Eagle, Cooney has come up with a collection of folk songs for our time, all sensitively arranged by the 30-something trio – looking back at wartime heroes here, offering a news report for the 21st century there, turning the spotlight on injustice and ultimately celebrating the indomitable human spirit.

Setting the scene with a cover of Maggie Holland’s A Place Called England (Best Song at 2000 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards) , the remaining songs on the 10-track album all come from the prolific pen of Cooney who manages to combine unflinching, sharply observed but compassionate, heartfelt lyrics.

With its ocean blue cover, Strangers looks at the stories of those that have crossed the seas to British shores and soldiers that have voyaged from here to the warfields of Europe. Paeans for the underdog have been inspired by the courage of Syrian refugees, have-a-go heroes and Gay Rights campaigners which sit seamlessly alongside narrative songs of First World War soldiers, Caribbean and Jewish immigrants, including the founder of one of our best known British High Street stores.

Not forgetting their native North East heroes, The Young’uns inspiration also comes from further afield – the banks of Spain’s River Ebro (Bob Cooney’s Miracle) and the Thalys train terrorist attack in France. (Carriage 12).

There are constant changes of tempo and mood, from the jaunty sing-a-long Ghafoor’s Bus, celebrating their fellow Teessider who reached out to refugees across Europe to the slow, soaring beauty of Lapwings (as performed on

BBC-tv’s Springwatch), inspired by a First World War diary entry from a soldier homesick for English fields and skies and the sublime, poetic Dark Water where they are backed by Aldeburgh Young Musicians and Radio 3’s Mary Ann Kennedy on harp.

Stand-out song Be The Man was inspired by the incredibly moving story of  Matthew Ogston and his fiancé Nazim Mahmood – its poignancy elevated by ex Bellowhead musician Rachael McShane on cello and fiddle and Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott on melancholic flugelhorn.

TRACK BY TRACK DESCRIPTIONS

  • A Place Called England – written by Maggie Holland in the late 1990s it is arguably an even more resonant song now.
  • Ghafoor’s Bus – celebrates the inspirational humanitarian work of Teesside grandad Ghafoor Hussain who spent thousands of pounds of his own money buying a bus and converting it into a travelling kitchen to feed refugees and immigrants across Europe. In refugee camps in Dunkirk he was serving 3,000 hot meals and 10,000 cups of tea a day.
  • Be the Man –a beautiful song inspired by Matthew Ogston who founded the Naz & Matt Foundation to tackle religious and cultural homophobia following the tragic death of his fiancé.
  • Carriage 12 – A song based on the incredible bravery of the passengers of the Amsterdam to Paris Thalys express train in August 2016 who foiled a terrorist attack – American friends  Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler & Alec Skarlatos aided by Englishman Chris Norman, an anonymous Frenchman known as ‘Damien A’ and American-Frenchman Mark Moogalian.
  • Cable Street – Told through the words of 16 year-old Stockton-born Johnny Longstaff who was one of an estimated 100,000 people who defied the police to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people of London’s East End, blocking the route of a British Union of Fascists march on October 4, 1936.
  • Dark Water – tells the story of Hesham Modamani from Syria who, after fleeing his home country following the disappearance of his brother, took the drastic decision to swim the Aegean Sea with fellow Syrian Feras Abukhalil. Hesham is now studying in Germany. He has been in contact with Sean Cooney saying “I am honoured that my journey made words for your song”. They are hoping to meet.
  • Bob Cooney’s Miracle –No relation to Sean, Bob Cooney hailed from Aberdeen and was a noted anti-Fascist leader when he joined the British Battalion of the International Brigade in the fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In a modern “feeding of the 5000” miracle he managed to feed 57 hungry men with a small loaf of bread and a tin of corned beef.
  • Lapwings – Inspired by the moving diary entry of Private Thomas Williams in WW1 which ended ‘My dreams were of English fields, horses at work ploughing and the spring cries of the peewits”.
  • These Hands – this song tells of Sybil Phoenix who came to Britain from British Guiana in 1956. She overcame racism and personal tragedy to become the first black woman to be awarded the MBE for her work fostering hundreds of children in Lewisham. Now 89 she is still active with the charity she founded in memory of her daughter – the Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust.
  • The Hartlepool Pedlar – a song about Eastern European Jewish refugee Michael Marks who fled the pogroms of the late 19th century and landed in Hartlepool before moving to Leeds and founding Marks and Spencer.

Sean’s songs have reached some of the people who inspired them including Syrian refugee Hesham Modamani, now living in Germany and Paris-based American-Frenchman Mark Moogalian, injured in the Thalys train attack, who heard Carriage 12 and wrote to say: “Many thanks for this wonderful song – the only thing that has ever brought tears to my eyes regarding what happened that day.”

These are powerful songs prompted by remarkable stories – making for an ultimately upbeat album full of hope, echoing the lyric from Ghafoor’s Bus: “There’s a friendly face, a better place and a future for us all”.

“A touching British affair – Neil Spencer, The Observer

“One of the best live acts I’ve ever seen – at the top of their profession, performing with vim, vigour and utter integrity” – Mike Harding

Striking a chord wherever they go, the emphatic Strangers marks a milestone chapter in The Young’uns brilliant story.

Recorded at The Chairworks in Castleford and Loft Studios in Newcastle, Strangers is produced by Neil Ferguson, released on Hereteu Records label and distributed by Proper Music.

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