If the band Yarn, playing the Avalon Theater on Sunday, Dec. 29, has not yet achieved household name recognition, they have developed a loyal and growing following. They’re called “Yarmy,” as in Yarn’s army, bringing to mind other bands you may have heard of. Grateful Dead devotees famously were known as Deadheads. Never mind their favorite band never had a Billboard Top 10 single until “Touch of Gray” late in the Dead’s collective career. Similarly, Phish followers call themselves Phans. They traveled hither and yon to catch concerts by a band that’s never had a Top 10 single.
Yarn band members know all about life on the road and spinning yarns about their peripatetic touring to entertain loyal fans and win new ones. “That’s what we do,” says Yarn singer/songwriter Blake Christiana. “We tell stories, live and in the studio, truth, and fiction.”
With that in mind, Yarn launched a series of singles back in January digitally released on the 13th of each month of 2019. The project, now compiled into a “Lucky 13” collection, includes each month’s single plus an alternate version of one of the 12. “Our intention was to share what it’s like to spend time traveling from city to city, with all the unlikely experiences encountered along the way,” Christiana says.
You can expect Yarn to perform, at the very least, the December “Lucky 13” release, “Dreamtown,” as well as, perhaps, the March single, “What For?” released just before the band’s previous concert at the Avalon, upstairs in the cozy 60-seat-or-so Stoltz Listening Room. Yarn was so well-received that the group has graduated to the 400-seat main-stage theater.
The Yarn quartet self-describes its genre as “roots music from the shadows of skyscrapers.” Others call it “back-porch melodies and narratives.” The band plays an Americana blend of country, folk, and classic rock. Though some in the band hail from Raleigh, N.C., Yarn is based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and has a regular Monday night gig at Kenny’s Castaway in Greenwich Village. Yarn’s current tour takes it up and down the East Coast and, beginning in March, to Colorado, Utah, and Montana.
“There’s a different vibe onstage from what comes through in our recordings,” Christiana says of Yarn’s albums, beginning with the 2007 eponymous debut release. “There’s a difference in every show as well; you never know what you’re going to get.”
Of the “Lucky 13” album, Yarn guitarist and vocalist Rod Hohl says, “People always ask us to tell them road stories. While this batch of songs isn’t exactly literal road stories, most deal with some degree of adventure and adversity as inspired by our tours and treks around the country. Yet like any good story, there’s an imaginative element to it as well. That’s why we’ve decided to release alternate versions of some tracks to provide a glance at the oddities that exist just beyond sight.”
Yarn’s previous album, “This Is the Year,” was an optimistic look forward while acknowledging challenges in becoming a more widely recognized band. “We were dealing with real-life issues,” Christiana says candidly. “Broken relationships, a sense of having to regroup and put some things—and people—behind us. [Yarn’s quartet was once a sextet. Remaining Yarns include bassist Rick Bugel and drummer Robert Bonhomme.] What I was writing about lyrically . . . became kind of a catharsis. . . . Ultimately those setbacks and difficulties led to new opportunities and allowed a little light to shine through.”
Along their winding road, Yarn has earned four Grammy nominations and performed up to 170 concerts a year on the road, sharing the stage or opening for Leon Russell, Dwight Yoakam, Charlie Daniels, Allison Krauss, Marty Stuart, and other headliners. They’ve also shared songwriting credits with John Oates of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame duo Hall & Oates.
Their hope now is that “Lucky 13” will become a prophetic title in their quest for wider fame and fortune. Meanwhile, you can catch them live in Easton. Opening for Yarn is Eastern Shore singer-songwriter Nate Clendenen.
Yarn in concert
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, Avalon Theater, 40 E. Dover St., Easton
Tickets: $25, 410-822-7299
Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts writer and editor now living in Easton.
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