Donnie Young – Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost – Album Review
The first album of original tunes from singer/songwriter Donnie Young…he’s written ten tracks for us to absorb, all created in a signature blend of Folk, Country, Americana, Blues & Rock. Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost mixes gentle rhythms and endearing grooves that have a highly-entertaining attitude; you can hear the root of his influences in the music he makes but you can also hear that Donnie’s heading down his own path now. It all begins here…and whether or not he wants us to, we’re going to follow him into this new set of songs and dive into the music on Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost.
You’ll find a lot of up-tempo jams on this record, but it starts in a more subtle atmosphere with the gentle beginnings of the album’s title-tune. “Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost” has instant melody to its sound…classic in a sense with an approach like The Band would have taken towards the production & structure of the music. The opening track definitely highlights Young’s ability to put imagery into his words as a songwriter and present a strong narrative that pulls us in to both sound & story through the honesty in the approach. Easy-going guitars…maybe a bit melancholy of a beginning by comparison to the material you’ll find later on in the record…he’s playing it low-key before amp’ing up the groove-factor on the following track “Smile” just around the corner.
If anything on this record represents that Americana/Rock style, it’s definitely “Smile.” Everything about this track echoes the beginnings of the Classic-Rock sound…which has essentially become what we now know as modern-Country today. It’s got a pepped-up rock sound but fun & playful atmosphere in the music and rhythm of something like Elton John or Jerry Lee Lewis from back in the day with the added piano into the mix. Solid guitar solo…clever ideas in the rhythm section occasionally flare-up on the inside of what’s generally-speaking, much more straight-ahead as a tune overall…but it’s those tiny tricks in the music that our ears notice and make the composition unique. Liked the tone on the final solo at the end of this tune alongside the piano before one final romp into the chorus of “Smile” – I wouldn’t say Donnie’s out to reinvent the roots of Rock here, but this is a well-executed tune.
That execution is part of the magic to the music of Donnie Young…you can hear the influence of music’s history on the rhythm & melody of “It’s Always The Weekend ‘Round Here” through its wild walking bass-lines and vocal-flow. A lot of this song sounds or feels familiar through tones or themes in the lyrics…but yet, still new enough to firmly hold the attention through some clever ideas and additions to the ambition here. Like…c’mon – the party atmosphere of this tune is audibly incredible…if there’s ever been a song that makes you feel like you’re right there and hanging out at an intimate performance at a live show, this might just be the one that really does it RIGHT. The hooks in the chorus of this song are insatiably catchy and incredibly inviting. I love everything we can hear in the background of this cut…and I love how it builds, evolves, grows and eventually includes those backing voices into the music itself – very cool ideas on “It’s Always The Weekend ‘Round Here.”
I do like the low-end rumble and crunch of “Sorry Baby” and the tightly-controlled groove it has with the guitars sliding around the playful beats from the drums. I like the confidence in Young’s vocals and how they go shot-for-shot with the energy in the music…I dig the backing vocals and the guitar solos. Something about it all was a bit too straight-ahead for my own personal taste…but I felt like every time that “Sorry Baby” came along as I was listening that it seemed to catch my attention as well. At the end of the day it kind of feels like an Americana/Rock standard of sorts…but once again, well-played & entertaining.
The cover of the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a solid addition to the lineup of songs on Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost. I like the way that Young approached this one…it’s a bit more low-key in attitude and gentle, but the melody and brightness in the rhythm also has more presence as a result. Great tones on the acoustic rhythms on this cut overall really…enjoyable stuff. He takes a bit of a chance with the chorus in changing it up a tiny bit here & there…and that’s always a chance you end up taking when covering a really well-known, beloved classic. Any slight variation can potentially change the game…people familiar with the tune will usually love you or hate you for it…I think the people out there will appreciate that Young has kept this one close enough to its original flow and tweaked it just enough to put some of his own style authentically into the mix.
I think I might have enjoyed the cover of “Soulshine” by The Allman Brothers Band even a bit more…it’s hard to say. What I do think…that Young certainly knows his own songwriting style well enough to know exactly what kind of qualities he was looking for in the songs he chose to cover on this record. There’s a great contrast of positive perspectives mixed & mired in melancholy attitudes and once again with a catchy rhythm & groove. I liked “Soulshine” because it was a bit less familiar than the huge hit from the Stones…enough to feel like this cover was a bit more ‘all his own.’ I think generally that’s always a great approach to a cover-tune anyhow…going after the larger-than-life tunes is always fun…but I feel like the real rewards come in through finding a song we’re familiar with, or remember faintly like “Soulshine,” and bringing it back to life. In some cases…done just right it often leads to the recognition the writing truly deserved just by having a lesser-known hit brought back…a compliment, one musician to another. Even though there are a few moments where Young rides the edge of a nearly-grating tone to the chorus of “Soulshine” – I still think he’s found himself a great tune to include on this record through its similar attitude and approach to the lyricism…both covers on this record for that same reason really.
I felt like one of the most surprising songs on the record was a track called “Never Take You Back.” There’s a part of me that wants to largely rebel against the familiarity and easy-to-like melody in this tune…but something about the honesty in this performance that won me over. Could tracks like “Soulshine” and “Never Take You Back” find a little more polish to them and become better versions of themselves? There’s an argument for that I suppose…but I think that shining these tunes up and rounding every corner would have sapped a lot of the vibrant life and genuine passion in the performances right out of the songs. So personally…it worked for me. I liked the attitude and rocker-edge to the sound in the tone of Young’s vocals on “Never Take You Back” and I really liked the melody; it has that ‘tenderized moment’ feel to its emotion…like you know this is a more low-key & intimate performance than you’d typically find Donnie’s music to have. That extra innocence added in to the writing, recording and sound of “Never Take You Back” won me over for sure…it’s an honest & humble melody delivered with sincerity…and I can dig that.
Bass-lines, beats and keyboards lead the way through “TW Funk” – the album’s inarguably largest departure from what we’ve become accustomed to hearing on Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost. Does it work? Good question! I’ll say this…I think that it’s definitely a noticeable track on the record because the style & sound is so much different from the rest of what we’ve heard…also because it comes after the gentle-vibes of “Never Take You Back.” Tough spot in general though…right after “TW Funk” comes one of my other favorite tunes on the record with “Get Out Of Town” – so understandably there needed to be a shift in the dynamics, ideas or sound here in this spot or whatever song it was just wouldn’t have stood out at all. In that respect, I think Donnie’s done a perfect job of laying out his record and how it flows. I liked the chorus of “TW Funk” and appreciate the fun he’s having on this cut…but the moment that “Get Out Of Town” sparks-up after it’s finished I’m more than fine with leaving the funk behind to get back to the rock. Great additional electric-fiddle (I think?) sounds that end up in the thick of this rhythm…and overall, “Get Out Of Town” showcases Young’s best of the up-tempo tunes on this entire record here with an inspired performance on this cut deep in the later stages of the record. If you’re a musician or guitar player especially…you know that Young’s relying on a minimal amount of chords to get him by on this tune – but listen to the way he’s got this one perfected to make the most out of every moment! Really dig the ending to this tune…all the way through really…dig the gripping rip of “Get Out Of Town.”
And then…whoa boy…what a set-up on this final tune! Talk about taking chances! Donnie’s either telling jokes in this final track, or he’s not…and unless everyone listening knows him well enough, he stands a solid chance of alienating the majority of the entire audience he’s just built for himself with “The Woman Song.” How’s THAT for an ending right? Polarizing to say the very least…and you can argue there’s a benefit to that at the end of the day…it’s definitely a tune that people will examine and talk about for sure! Even if I thought he was joking…it still wouldn’t matter…he’s still taken a massive chance here at the end of the record by creating this tune. “The Woman Song” could very well find itself being relabeled the “Locker Room Talk Anthem” after all is said and done…and honestly I’m a little perplexed by this move here at the end of the record…it’s one hell of a final statement with very little room to be misperceived. So there’s a boldness in making a move like that…people that support what he’s said here as the truth will certainly have no trouble in liking this cut and are no doubt ready to cheer Young on with the enthusiasm of Billy Bush…but for the rest of us out there…this is a tough one to love.
Yeah…it’s been a long time since I can remember being this confused by the final cut of a record or what the angle might be. I can only conclude that…if this song got made & recorded at all, that these words must be lyrics, feelings, thoughts & opinions that Donnie would truly stand behind…otherwise I’m not sure how “The Woman Song” gets made. If he’s not putting it out there to make a point somehow…then I think he’s taken more of a chance than necessary with the polarizing and misogynistic approach to the lyricism of the record’s final tune. And if he IS putting this one out there to make a point…again, I think he’ll find more resistance to what he’s saying than heads nodding in agreement. Having this track at the end…again, joking or serious doesn’t matter, people will hear it how they hear it…but having this track as the last cut really runs the potential of leaving us with a sour impression at the end, even after a solid experience beforehand. It could potentially change a lot of opinions in the final moments…and I’m not sure that’s the effect anyone is looking to have at the end of a record after establishing so much good-will towards it earlier on.
In theory, it’s the culmination and climax of many of the heartbreaking tales told through the songs we’ve heard as the album played. Time will tell if that final switch & change in how direct the words become will pay off for Donnie Young…but my hunch is that this final risk wasn’t one he needed to take after creating so many good times along the way on Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost.
Find out more at Donnie Young’s official page: http://www.donnieyoungmusic.com