On their first album, 2015's American Man, the Yawpers sprang out of the gate as one of the best roots rock bands to emerge in ages, with tough but literate songs and a potent take on acoustic country and blues. They aimed for something bigger and more ambitious on 2017's Boy in a Well, a picaresque concept album that was adventurous in a way that dwarfed their debut, both in material and execution. So in some respects, 2019's Human Question feels like a step back, a set of straightforward tunes that focuses on the band's skills as an electric trio rather than reinventing their stylistic wheel. But it sure doesn't sound like a band that's treading water -- Human Question is a superb rock & roll album, full of heart, soul, drive, and smarts.
On most of the tracks, Nate Cook has traded his acoustic guitar for an electric, and the big, scratchy roar of his axe fills out his songs in a major way, and his vocals are impassioned and forceful, whether he's calling up fire and brimstone on "Earn Your Heaven" or pondering the slow turning of the larger world in "Where the Winters End." As a songwriter, Cook understands the lives of the regular folks down the street, and he can tell their stories in a way that's not cliched or simplistic, respecting the drama and hard choices that come with life as an adult. The tunes aren't fancy, but they sound bold and emotionally satisfying, and man, can these guys play. Jesse Parmet and Alex Koshak are a rhythm section that don't just keep a beat behind the songs, they give them shape and form and movement, and as a trio, the Yawpers are remarkably effective, roaring like a freight train that can miraculously stay in tune. The Yawpers haven't troubled themselves with how to up the ante on Boy in a Well, they just poured their energies into being a better band and making a better record. And they've succeeded -- Human Question is the work of a powerfully good trio who've made it clear they are no ordinary roots rock outfit.