Blake Christiana, founding member of Yarn, has the music in him

In fact, you could say that Blake is the music and the music is Blake; that’s how deeply he inhabits the songs he writes and plays. You can hear him struggling with his feelings, whether it’s on a skittering country shuffle or on a mid-tempo folk ballad or a straight-ahead rocker. His restless search for the chords and lyrics over the past 20 years has produced a plethora of memorable music, and since 2007 he’s led Yarn, a band that’s evolved from its earliest days as a bar band in New York City to an outstanding roots band that’s shared stages with Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Alison Krauss, and Leftover Salmon, among many others.

Yarn got their start by playing a weekly residency at Kenny’s Castaways in Greenwich Village in 2007.

“We played there every Monday night for two years. I was writing like crazy, and we’d try out the songs. It was like rehearsing on stage; every night was different, and sometimes we played in front of five people and sometimes there’d be 100 people there.”

Over the years, musicians have rotated in and out of Yarn, but drummer Robert Bonhomme and bassist Rick Bugel, along with Christiana, have remained the core of the band.

17 years and over 10 albums later...

Yarn has a new album, Born, Blessed, Grateful & Alive, out in July 2024, and their exuberance shines as bright as ever; they lay down jubilant songs — even when the lyrics might be a little less than joyous—and play effortlessly across a number of genres. Joining Christiana, Bonhomme, and Bugel in the studio for this he album were guitarists Mike Robinson (Railroad Earth), Andy Falco (Infamous Stringdusters), and Mike Sivilli (Dangermuffin), bassist Johnny Grubb (Railroad Earth), harmony vocalists Heather Hannah and Elliott Peck (Midnight North), and keyboardist Damian Calcagne, who co-produced the album along side Blake Christiana.  

The soaring Allman Brothers-esque mid-tempo rocker “Turn Off the News” opens with a cascading piano run that tumbles into the band’s echoing vocals that reverberate with a gospel-inflected acclimation of the joy we feel when we can “turn of the news” and “shake off the blues” of the incessant 24 hour depressing news cycle. The country shuffle “Somethings Gotta Change” strolls along the crystalline riffs of a pedal steel that darts in and out of a honky-tonk piano; the song exudes a joyous spirit even in the face of the world falling down around it.

Christiana says that “Heart So Hard” never really worked with the old Yarn

“It needed a fresh approach with new collaborators.”

The punchy rhythmic pace with a searing lead line, provided by Andy Falco,  in the instrumental bridge evoke the fast-paced emotional shifts that occur when you move from feeling desperately alone to finding peace in that loneliness. The spaciously unfolding “Play Freebird” flies high on a the sonic wings of Southern rock, incorporating a few lines and lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s

“Freebird,” as well as that song’s soaring harmonies and guitar orchestration. Christiana recalls that “My wife started writing this song a few years ago and she played it for me one night at our house. I thought it was a great idea and the beginning of a potentially amazing song. This was one of those tunes that immediately went from paper to the stage; I think we started playing it live the following week. It was written about her father who used to play Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker Band on his guitar around the house all the time when her and her sisters were little.  It’s also nice to have a song to play when some asshole in the audience yells “Freebird.”

The laconic country ballad “I Want You,” which Christiana wrote with his long-time songwriting partner Shane Spaulding, “loosely follows the plot of the ‘70s Willie Nelson movie, Honeysuckle Rose, about a married touring musician who finds his true love out on the road.” A road song, “Nomad Man” glitters with ringing finger-picking and soaring steel runs as it evokes the loneliness and solitude of the moving from one place to another, while the soulful “These Words Alone,” with its towering B3 and gospel-inflected harmonies sonically resembles Van Morrison’s later songs. The rollicking steel guitar on “Down at the Dancehall” introduces a twangy rambler that would be at home on any album by the Flying Burrito Brothers.

For Christiana, it’s all about the song, and the collection of songs on Born, Blessed, Grateful & Alive reflect the range of the human experience. Says Christiana, “No one has any idea why we're here, what we're supposed to be doing here or what comes next, and there are very few things in this life to connect us to one another, other than the fact that we all don't know these things. I like to think our music could be one of the places where we can connect.”

Yarn has definitely brought people together with their music; their devoted followers call themselves the “Yarmy,” and for the last 4 years the band has hosted a three-day music festival, Yarnival, that attracted hundreds of fans to Troy, Virginia. Yarnival is a music and alternative entertainment festival, complete with sword swallowers, burlesque dancers, magicians, freak shows, and of course their favorite hand picked musical acts. Along the way, Yarn has gathered accolades from festivals, The Americana Music Association, landed on the Grammy ballot four times, and placed in the top five of the AMA album charts on more than one occasion.

Yarn keeps spinning their stories, drawing audiences into their vibrant musical web, and delivering clever and resonant lyrics in memorable songs that reverberate and linger in listeners’ hearts and souls.