James Yorkston and The Athletes | WIG157 | Released: 03/06/07
Others may have arrived at folk music with an eye on low cost forms of self-expression or as access to an encounter group where a battered guitar and an ability to wail ensure you of an in; but James Yorkston has always kept his own counsel. Indeed, it?s almost as if the current vogue for all things acoustic has finally caught up with what those in the know have been hearing JY do for years ? beautiful, understated, heart warming songs.
Over three albums of flinty grace: Moving Up Country (2002) Just Beyond The River (2004) & The Year Of The Leopard (2006) Yorkston has established a canon as singular and intimate as any current songwriter. Roaring The Gospel is a collection that complements the diffuse and tender tone of the studio albums with a slightly more open and ramshackle feel. This collection is a welcome rattle bag of laments, cover versions and traditionals that reveal the side of Yorkston that would happily sit in on a high-spirited ceilidh, or woozily join on the harmonies at one of the Fence Collective?s legendary homegames. It also demonstrates Yorkston?s blood deep understanding of the dynamics of folk music, storytelling, and singing your life even as it unfurls around you.
A native of Fife, Yorkston was an integral early member of the Fence Collective whose reach across contemporary music continues to lengthen: King Creosote, The Aliens, KT Tunstall. All the above share Fence roots and a shackles-off mentality with Yorkston.
On tracks such as Sleep Is The Jewel, The Hills & The Heath and The Lang Toun the instinctive dynamic understanding Yorkston shares with his band the Athletes, especially drummer Faisal can be heard in full flow. The subtle shape shifting of Yorkston?s arrangements are played seemingly, on whatever comes to hand and whatever it is at hand it always sounds fine and apposite. Banjo/Bouzouki/Fender Rhodes/Harmonium/Mandolin/Concertina/Clarinet. Fine ingredients for a fine stew. Carrying everything is Yorkston?s rich voice and wry lyric, which always manages to sound hopeful and pessimistic at the same time. Yorkston?s ruminations on love/lust/ longing/liquor share a more eternal, resigned, Celtic feel with the battered reflections of Jacques Brel, Shane McGowan and Bert Jansch than any of his contemporaries.
Roaring The Gospel is a collection that reads like a late night tale that gets embellished with every telling; and reflects James Yorkston at his most carefree and careworn.