James Yorkston and The Athletes | WIG221 | Released: 30/08/08
"For me, listening to James Yorkston's music is like coming across the interesting-looking person on the fringes of a party. Before you know it, you've spent the evening listening to their compelling tale. In this record, I get a real sense that he has found his true voice. There's a quiet confidence in his craft; his singing, the words and instrumentation, all blend seamlessly to produce a really affecting record." – Philip Selway, Radiohead
“When the haar rolls in it’s just a question of waiting things out and that’s when I swear the music gets me through…”
This 4th studio album by James Yorkston is for sure a masterful thing. All the ambition, beauty and pathos of his previous albums is sweeping through – and he’s even bought back the full, lush arrangements that popularised his early work. Self produced; this album has the sound of a man let loose – un-restrained by the hand of an outside producer or the expectation of a major label’s desperation for a hit album.
Alongside King Creosote, The Aliens, Beta Band & Kate Tunstall, arriving here we have another slab of Fence Collective - East Neuk of Fife braw-ness. James is working once again with his trusty Athletes, along with some more unexpected names – Norma Waterson, Mike Waterson, Marry Gilhooly, Olly Knight. Not sure who they are? Have a wee look-up, filed under “legendary English folk family”. This clash of the folk world and the Fence world works particularly well – James first met them all at the BBC Electric Proms, where he was Musical Director at the tribute to the great Lal Waterson – the amazing version of Midnight Feast here has all the fluidity of Can at their most out there, with the mightiest of fisherman’s choruses pitched in. Kraut-Folk indeed.
More tales of waking up drunk in unfamiliar surroundings, throwing rocks at magpies, dogs chasing ghosts, stubborn sea winds, regrets and joys and smiles and peace and quiet and love and hate and more love. Better than that sounds though. It’s a beautiful, honest album.
“You still dressed like some unkempt Japanese lady and you’re laughing, as I murdered the Gaelic”
There are all sorts going on here – those arrangements – the timpani, clarinets, violins, vibraphone, concertinas, bull bass, prepared pianos, mandolins, bouzoukis, banjos and wine glasses. All wrapping up the songs and surrounding them with warmth and grandeur.
This album should win every award going – from the Nobel to the Good Cookery – but it probably won’t. Ah well – that’s what you get for being as out-of-step as ever. We can still enjoy it tho. We can sit back and listen to one of the few original artists left who can still be bothered making art for arts sake. It goes well with a bottle of good red, or as James would probably have it, a dram or two of 18yr old Caol Ila whisky.
Bob Agnews, c/o Fence Records.