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Twenty-three-year-old songwriter Winston Yellen didn't attempt to "pull a Bon Iver" when he rented a pre-Civil War home -- formerly occupied by Johnny Cash and June Carter -- in the woods outside Nashville and recorded his debut LP, Country Sleep. It just sort of happened.
"I wasn't really conscious of anything I was doing," Yellen says from an Irish pub in Washington, having just wrapped up a performance for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. "I wanted to start making -- and you just do what you do. Three sheets to the wind, and at the time, I was in a haze. I just felt -- and tried not to fuck it up."
He didn't. The record's got bursts of rollicking alt-country grit, like "Ramona," which wouldn't be out of place on a Whiskeytown or Old 97's album, but it's also got a spooky, sexy side, featured on tracks like "Faithful Heights" and the R&B-inspired slow jam, "I Wanted You in August." Though he cut the tracks in Tennessee, their inspiration was found scattered all across the United States, on the highways Yellen traveled while living in his car.
A little Kerouac cliché, maybe, but Yellen doesn't mind: "I just decided to make an honest record. I know I'm not cool -- I'm fucking lame -- but I just wanted to make my record. I can't help if Pitchfork doesn't like it." Joke's on him; the site liked the record and called him "kind of the real deal." Pretty high praise -- from those guys, anyway. -- Jason P. Woodbury
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