published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Riverfront Nights headliner known for straightforward lyrics


What: Yarn at Riverfront Nights.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Chattanooga Green at Ross's Landing.

Admission: Free.

Phone: 756-2211.



Steel String Session plays "cosmic rockin' blues boogie grass." Members are Lisa Jacobi (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, upright bass, composer), Pete Dasher (vocals, resonator guitar), Jarrod "JRod" Payne (vocals, banjo, guitar, composer), Denny Mixon (vocals, upright bass, guitar, composer) and John Ferguson (vocals, rockabilly guitar, fiddle, composer). Their website is

What you hear isn't always what you get.

Take the music of Yarn, for example.

Lyrics like, "I hope you're broken baby, I hope you're beat down, I hope your pain is here to stay," might conjure up a pretty bitter songwriter, but Yarn frontman Blake Christiana swears he wasn't directing the band's anthem "Down on Your Luck" toward anyone in particular.

"I couldn't pinpoint when I felt like that, but I know I've had that feeling before," he said. "That feeling is familiar, that 'I'm not going to be here for you anymore' stuff. That gets to people."

The country/folk sound of Yarn also sounds like a band that comes from, well just about anywhere other than Brooklyn, N.Y., but that is where they are based, five guys scattered in from the Northeast and a Parisian drummer, Christiana said in a phone interview en route to Washington, D.C.

The lead singer grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., raised by his father on a healthy diet of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson.

"He doesn't have any Southern ties, really," Christiana said of his father. "It just happened. Country has definitely crossed over. That's what got into my earholes in the early part of my life."

As a teen, he listened to the hair bands of the '80s, then went back and embraced the Grateful Dead, The Who and The Beatles.

He had another band in Brooklyn, Blake and the Family Dog, for a few years, before forming Yarn in early 2006. The band recently released its fourth album, "Leftovers, Volume One," a collection of previously unreleased material.

Christiana writes most of the songs for the band and noted his lyrics tend to have a lot of loneliness and hurt in them.

"I write a lot of sad songs. It kind of comes easy, I guess, to write about life's worries. When everything's going right and you're happy, it's harder to express yourself, I think. I'm not sure why."

Songwriting, he said, happens all sorts of ways. "There's always something personal in it," perhaps a person or a situation that is an inspiration, and he goes from there.

"I've never really sat down and tried to write a happy song. It just comes out how it does. I don't have particular control over it. I think there's always some truth in what everybody writes."

In May, Christiana took on a weeklong effort called Morning Project.

With a week off, and a trip home canceled due to illness, he set out to write and record a song each morning, with the common theme of "utter despair."

He wanted to hold himself accountable, he said, to see if he could actually do it.

And despite the somber tone of his lyrics, he doesn't consider himself a bleak person. "I have a lot of fun," he said. "I think [music] has a good therapeutic power. Gets all that darkness out on the page. I don't go to therapy, but my music definitely keeps my head clear."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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