Yata Rocks

longtime singer/songwriter takes new direction

Thom Fountain, photos by Andrea Paulseth

DON’T LET THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR FOOL YOU. Yata Peinovich brought his new, rockier style to the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park on July 17.
DON’T LET THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR FOOL YOU. Yata Peinovich brought his new, rockier style to the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park on July 17.

If you know Yata Peinovich’s music, the first notes of Y are a real kick in the pants. His newest record adds a true rock direction to Yata’s songwriting, with huge full arrangements and driving melodies.

“I’m always open to new challenges,” Yata said. “I’ve always appreciated bands that don’t have real predictability about them and are real diverse.”

The 61-year-old songwriter has definitely fallen in that camp over his long career, but for the most part has stayed in softer forms of music – being mostly well known for his folk, bluegrass, and jazz stylings. That’s what makes the raw sound of this album so much more surprising and gratifying.

Yata was pushed in this direction with the help of Menomonie producer John Richardson. The two connected after a show and Yata was invited to record some songs with a handful of Nashville-based studio musicians who were visiting the area. After three long days of recording, the beginnings of Y were taking shape – as was the new sound.

Richardson challenged Yata to stretch his songwriting to new levels, and the results pay off. Y has a huge sound in places, with driving rhythms and growling guitars. Songs like “Achin’ For Love” and “Young Boy” maintain Yata’s knack for melody (and his soaring voice), but layer it over a solid rock base.

Throughout the record, Yata borrows from a number of poets – something he’s experimented with for much of his career. He said his day job as a social worker often leaves him drained at the end of the long day – and searching for inspiration.

“I would just crack a poetry book and pull out lyrics,” Yata said. “It was some almost mystical connection. Sometimes the first one would jump out as a song. I’d let it inform a tune or sometimes just let the words jump off the page.”

Some of the poets credited on Y are Walt Whitman, A.E. Housman, and even e.e. cummings, though the most surprising is a nine-year-old named Ella Peinovich – Yata’s daughter.

Now in her 30s, as a child Ella would sing in the kitchen and Yata has a distinct memory of scribbling down the lyrics to one of her songs before putting it to music. As the production for Y kicked off, he brought the song in and he and Richardson made it album-ready.

Wherever Yata is looking for inspiration, he must find it often: The prolific songwriter has now released 10 albums in his career and continues to play and host music events around west-central Wisconsin. While there’s nothing definite yet, Yata said he’s sure it won’t be long before he’s back in the studio.

As to what it will sound like? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Y is available at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. You can find more information, including upcoming shows, at YataYata.com or at Facebook.com/YataTunes.

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