It’s only January, but I can say as a music critic that 2022 has been a good year for cover songs so far. A lot of new era artists are taking the framework of their forerunners and presenting some of the smartest concept works we’ve heard in the past half-century, and among those I’ve been listening to lately, Yardan’s debut cut of “Buzzin’ Fly,” originally by Tim Buckley, is one of my personal favorites. Without creating a lot of forced pressure in the arrangement, this is one of the tightest, leanest versions of the classic song that I’ve ever heard, as well as being a stoic but quite telling profile of who its performer is. I’d never heard him before, but I already like what Yardan is doing from a technical standpoint in this single.

There’s a certain New England vibe to the way this singer is delivering and, to some extent, restructuring the lyrics in “Buzzin’ Fly” to suit his personality, and upon learning about Yardan’s Connecticut background, the aesthetics here started making a lot of sense. The rusticity of the rhythm, even the delicate but playful nature of the harmonies between the mandolin strings and our singer’s voice – they speak to a cultural identity that you can’t fake or synthetically insert in a song on a whim. There’s an authenticity to the understated vocal cues and the way he’s using them to build a narrative in this track, and you can’t overvalue a feature as integral to organic songcraft as that is.

The bassline and the saxophone are pretty moderate up until we reach the first climactic push in the chorus of “Buzzin’ Fly,” after which I think their unruliness is essential to really driving the point behind these lyrics home. Yardan might be a newcomer to the stage, but he’s not being foolish with his utilization of conservative performance attitudes here; from my perspective, indulgence would have been a surefire way to make his role in this song sound a little too theatrical for most critics’ taste (mine included). He’s breaking away from those who are hurriedly rejecting the minimalism movement in the American folk underground right now, and he’s got my respect for trying to do as much in his debut release.

Yardan won’t have a hard time collecting a lot of fans right from the get-go with “Buzzin’ Fly” this January, and while he’s entering the folk scene at a moment in which a lot of singer/songwriters are competing for just a sliver of mainstream fame, he shouldn’t feel intimidated by the daunting task ahead of him. With a voice as strong as shapely as his is, even in a track that’s quite frankly as difficult to cover as any other in the legendary book of great American composing, and I think if he’s already this good, he’s bound to get better – and more personal – as time goes by. I’ll be eager to hear his original works, but this is a great tipping-off point if I’ve ever come across one before.

Sebastian Cole