Take the guitar skills from a Woodstock-era anti-Vietnam protest rally and add it to the Arab Spring and you’ll have this Angry Young Guitar Player. Lacking a professional last name, Yusif! grew up in Kuwait and knows the horrors of war. He draws on his anger and focuses it into classic folk rock arrangements, but it’s his gritty and urgent vocals that grab you. “Third World Soldier” sneaks up with a building sound; the Johnny Comes Marching Home drums and a piano chord underlay his not-exactly pleasant voice. It’s a pretty explicit telling of the grit and blood of battles that we vaguely notice in the clutter of news, mother’s lose sons young and old, and while the battle matters to him, he might not change the world very much before he joins the dead.

When not fighting, a young man needs something else to do and “Come on Down” offers the urgent rhythm of unauthorized sex in the basement. Live fast, you know the rest. Later in the record the music become more contemplative, “My Heart Is Yours Forever” and “Sorry I Can’t” slow way down, the blood and guts washed away, and only Yusif’s distinctive voice reminds us where we are. War is hell, but some great music comes from the anger.

Yusif! yusifmusic.com

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