Just how good can music be without a healthy pinch of myth-making pixie dust sprinkled right over it? “Not very,” is how Winston Yellen would probably respond. The Nashville-via-Colorado-Springs singer/songwriter behind Nightbeds (a project he kickstarted in 2006) did a crucial bit of character-establishing by going to channel the Man in Black himself.
Yellen visited a Civil-War-predating property in Hendersonville, Tenn., once owned by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, to spend about six months writing (and perhaps recording, too; the story is blurry) Country Sleep. Released in February as Nightbeds' debut full-length, Sleep makes good on a kind of heartsick AltCountry that retroactively makes the setting of the band’s first show — namely, a small, near-empty “brown bagkind of liquor store” in Tennessee — seem too perfect to be true.
Yellen has made it a point to emphasize the idea of anchoring Nightbeds in simplicity (in an interview, he chose “rudimentary” to describe the style of songs he writes) and his self-avowed “bastardized record of old Country music” definitely holds true to that notion. As Sleep shows off Beds' frontman's huge, wistful voice — easily the highlight of this project — it plays up a spirit of passionate, blue-collar authenticity. There's great power in balancing persona and person, and Yellen knows that well.
NIGHTBEDS play with Jenny O Friday, June 21 at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Check out performance times and get venue details here.