Country Sleep, the debut from Colorado expats Night Beds, takes place in the middle of the night, and in the middle of a young man’s mind. The album, largely the product of 23-year-old frontman Winston Yellen, sprung from a trip Yellen took across America in a small hatchback — sweeping church floors and sleeping on couches as he went. The five-month journey ended in Nashville, where Yellen rented out June Carter and Johnny Cash’s pre-civil war house in the woods of Hendersonville, Tennessee. It was there (and in the Brown Owl Studio in Nashville) that Country Sleep was recorded.
The album opens with “Faithful Heights,” a solitary a cappella lament that introduce Yellen’s vocals as the strongest instrument on Country Sleep. The next song, “Ramona,” adds electric guitar and a highway-hitting rhythm, but even the fastest songs still feel like bluesy, morose heartland ballads. The crooning slide and the ghostly reverb on tracks like “Borrowed Time” and “Cherry Blossoms” recall Wilco circa Sky Blue Sky, but Yellen’s vocals have no relation to Tweedy. Think Justin Vernon, but not for too long: As soon as Yellen’s voice starts sliding up to falsetto it flicks suddenly away, like candlelight in a night breeze. “I don’t want to feel this on my own,” he sighs balefully. Country Sleep lives in those dark moments, the ones between wake and sleep.