Singer/songwriter Korey Dane's 2015 album Youngblood proves to be a strong, low-key showcase for his rootsy, thoughtful songwriting. A native of Southern California, Dane traveled around a lot with his family growing up before they settled in Los Alamitos, near Long Beach. By his twenties, Dane was already performing regularly around the Long Beach area, and released two independent albums prior to Youngblood -- including 2010's Loomer, recorded with studio time afforded him from winning the acoustic musical competition Buskerfest at the 2010 Long Beach Summer and Music concert series. Following Loomer, Dane parted ways with his band and spent the next few years rethinking his creative direction. Eventually, he befriended an entirely new group of more like-minded musicians, including guitarist Aaron Embry, and set to work recording with the new lineup. This backstory seems to impact the sound on Youngblood in a very noticeable way. While the album retains much of the foggy, acoustic atmosphere of his previous work, the record also feels in many ways like an inspired debut from an artist just coming into his own. Helping Dane to achieve the sound here is veteran producer Tony Berg (Edie Brickell, Michael Penn, Aimee Mann) who brings a smoky warmth to the arrangements on Youngblood. Berg also imparts his trademark affection for whimsically tactile instruments like the Chamberlain keyboard and glockenspiel. At his core, Dane is a coffeehouse folkie. He has a throaty, diffuse croon and a knack for delivering his literate songs with a writer's pacing. Often, it's Dane's more nuanced, poetic songs that stick with you. On the lackadaisical, country-blues-tinged "Let It Be Just for Fun," Dane sings in a steady whisper, "Nothing...is on my mind/The dream that I had washed away in the tide/Calling to me like ships in the night/ The big empty room with vertical lines." That said, there are plenty of hummable, melodic moments on Youngblood, and songs like the sparkling, Byrds-ian "I'm Your Man," with background vocals by Berg's daughter and former the Like singer Z. Berg, and the crisply infectious "Heaven Won't Let Me In," recall the poppier end of the Wilco spectrum.
(CD - Innovative Leisure #810874021175)
Review by Matt Collar