Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yair Yona

The story goes like this: Israeli Yair Yona bought Bert Jansch's debut at a record store in London after being intrigued by Jansch's face on the cover, fell in love with it, and switched from bass to 12-string acoustic guitar. It's a good story, and sonically it makes a lot of sense. Yona's ragas have all the elements of the classic finger-picking folkies, both the British side as well as the American Takoma tradition. It's hard to convey emotion without lyrics, and even harder for one man to do it alone, with a single instrument. But he succeeds admirably, mutating a few lengths of wire and a box of wood into a story-teller all its own. The thing that people forget is that an acoustic guitar can also be a percussion instrument, but a few slaps on the body and hard picks of the strings give "Struggled So Hard" a real backbeat.

This is not necessarily a song about triumph, as no blues song can ever be; it's about getting back up from your knees and soldiering on. He's drawing from the same influences (and as talented) as contemporaries Jack Rose, Ben Chasney and James Blackshaw, but whereas each of those dabbled with alternate minimalism and maximalism, whether through feedback or reverb or face-melting electric riffs, Yona treats his object much more simply. You don't need a pedal to be emotive, and "Struggled So Hard" reaffirms faith in the guitar as a vehicle of quiet menace and stolid conviction.

Yair Yona - "Struggled So Hard"

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