march 2011

Finnders & Youngberg (from left: Mike Finders, Erin Youngberg, Aaron Youngberg, Ryan Drickey, Rich Zimmerman): Good writing, solid picking, inspired vocalizing and a near-palpable enthusiasm for this music recommend the group’s second album.

Suspicions of Something Special Afoot

Finnders & Youngberg Make An Impression

By David McGee

Finnders & Youngberg
Finnders & Youngberg

A quintet hailing from Fort Collins, CO, Finnders & Youngberg is making a name for itself in a thriving roots music community with a heady mix of largely original bluegrass, country and old-timey music. This, the group’s second album, ought to give it a leg up on the competition if good writing, solid picking, inspired vocalizing and a near-palpable enthusiasm for its music count for anything.

Finnders & Youngberg at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale, CO, perform the first song on FY5, ‘Red Mountain Pass,’ a co-write between Mike Finders (on guitar and lead vocal) and Sweet Sunny South’s Bill Powers

Most of the original songs here come from guitarist/vocalist Mike Finders, with upright bassist/vocalist Erin Youngberg contributing an irresistible old-timey rag, “For Old Time’s Sake,” in which she jauntily anticipates reconciling with an old flame, with the mood enhanced by her husband Aaron Youngberg plunking out a laid-back banjo solo that is then echoed by Rich Zimmerman on mandolin. (She’s also responsible for putting some bluegrass glide in the stride of Hank Thompson’s lament for a faithless love, “Tomorrow Night,” an occasion for some frisky banjo-mandolin-guitar picking; eager bursts of fiddle by Ryan Drickey, one of the bright young lights on that instrument; and a lilting, evocative vocal by Ms. Youngberg that might remind some of Hot Club of Cowtown’s Elana James.) Finders is a credible chronicler of heartbreak, loneliness and the working life as well as being a genial purveyor of the sort of pragmatic wisdom informing his album opening, Punch Brothers-ish “Red Mountain Pass” (a co-write with one of the finest roots songwriters extant, Bill Powers, of Sweet Sunny South). This hard charging tale about a working man’s determination to get the job done no matter the obstacles ahead becomes, in its refrain of “somebody’s gotta plow the pass,” a metaphor for dogged persistence that will pay dividends to those who follow his lead. Much like the protagonist in that song, the bowing fool who’s the subject of Finders’s swaying, mountain-redolent “Fiddlin’ To My Grave” is bound to saw away on his strings until he’s laid in the ground (“it’s the only life I’ve ever known”); given the subject matter, it’s no wonder that Drickey again puts his indelible stamp on the tune. “Give a Little Back,” a bouncy, Tim O’Brien-style folk-bluegrass advisory, is driven by Finders’s syncopated, fingerpicked acoustic guitar and a gospel quartet-style chorus dispensing the always-useful advice, “If you want a little more/you gotta give a little back,” in helping Finders illustrate his philosophy in an amiable manner.

Finnders & Youngberg at the Folk Alliance 2011, ‘Connie,’ from the album FY5

Finders is especially effective when matters turn poignant: with its crying steel and winsome fiddle atmospherics, his beautiful traditional country love ballad “Sold On You” is a doubly effective explication of all-consuming affection that Finders sells fully through his sheer passion for its convictions; in “Connie,” a stomping arrangement and Finders’s in-your-face vocalizing heighten the seething frustrations that erupt in fisticuffs, and subsequently a prison term, for a working man at the end of his rope; the ache of a one-sided love affair suffuses the honky tonk weeper “Just a Friend” with a mood of resigned acceptance of an irreparable disconnect between desire on one party’s part and disinterest on another’s. Though the mood lightens now and again—not just on “Tomorrow Night,” but also when Finders and company kick up a delightful storm of enthusiasm for the drifter’s itinerant ways in “Driftwood,” in a trundling arrangement with ample room for Drickey (fiddle), Finders (guitar), Aaron Youngberg (banjo) and Rich Zimmerman (mandolin) to make sprightly solo statements as the music rolls on and the singers blend their voices in the harmony hope that they “make it on down to New Orleans.” Though its story is full of forlorn feeling, Finders’s country toe-tapper “Sing a Lonesome Song” is ultimately an upbeat invitation to a certain love interest to find strength in numbers and “sing a lonesome song together.” When it’s all said and done, listeners will suspect they’ve stumbled upon something special in Finnders & Youngberg. Verily, time will prove those suspicions well founded.

Finnders & Youngberg’s FY5 is available at