The importance of family values in country music has not been lost on Y’all, a couple of small-town emigrés from Indiana and Texas facing life together in New York. Harmony-singing gentle, mildly funny folk songs of life, love and the “white trash country gospel” over simple acoustic instruments on self-released records, they’re not They Might Be Giants, but they’re not the Proclaimers, either. (Actually, their sound is close to the Kingston Trio, only there’s two of ’em and John Stewart never sang about being “Queen of the Rodeo.”) Exactly what they are is hard to settle on, but James Dean Jay Byrd and Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer have angelic voices, the temperament of concerned candy stripers and some of the ugliest dresses to be found in the Aunt Bee rack of America’s Salvation Armies. Campy in principle, not execution, Y’all is winningly weird in the nicest possible way.
The bare-bones ’93 cassette, a studio version of the duo’s live act, is unassumingly pretty, but the songs (except for “My Family Tree” and “Eduardo”) are too quiet and nondescript. The Next Big Thing offers a second version of the debut’s “My Man, Our Horses, And Me” (this time backed by the eight-strong CowGirl Chorus) and such friskier compositions as “The Egg Man (for Edith Massey),” the poverty-stricken “Food Stamp Blues,” the twangy “Are You on the Top 40 of Your Lord?” and the coyly sexual “Do It.” Much more engaging than the debut.
Big Apple Pie, all seven slices of it, brings Y’all into the modern world with excellent results. Sounding like an old-timey band with such useful implements as fiddle, banjo, mandolin and washboard, the good-singing duo and their friends wax homesick in “The Map of the U.S. of A.” and “Gotta Be a Big Man,” flipping the gender script with Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.” Supported more simply, Byrd and Cheslik-DeMeyer also poke genial fun at their adopted city in “God Bless New York City (My Big Apple Pie),” sing a folk ballad about a Southeastern town called “Graham” and take a third crack at “My Man, Our Horses, And Me.” Once was enough, guys.