Review : James Yorkston - Folk Songs
PopmattersThe folk music of Great Britain and Ireland is a marvelous thing, but those who love it best haven’t always been its greatest ambassadors. Perhaps inevitably in a genre that’s all about continuity with the past, folk artists have sometimes been weighed down by an excessive reverence for the source material, or stylistically straightjacketed by blind fidelity to a performng tradition.
Not James Yorkston. On this album of folk songs stretching back to the 16th century, his arrangements are authentic and historically informed without making a fetish of it, combining a sense of tradition with his own distinctive musical voice.
For this record Yorkston has temporarily replaced his usual running mates, the Athletes, with the Big Eye Family Players, a move that’s had little discernable effect on the gorgeous textures of his music. Boasting the same lovely instrumental detail as his previous albums, Folk Songs is an object lesson in balance and understatement, the exquisite instrumentation bathing the ears in a sound as fresh and clear as spring water....full text
UncutThe Fence Collective: it sounds like a committee of concerned property owners rather than a hotbed of cultural activism, but the micro label from Fife has left quite a mark on modern music since its inception a dozen years ago. The credo adopted by Fence founder Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, was straight from the punk handbook – “We write our own songs, we release our own records, we stage our own gigs” – but as important has been the sense of family and mutual support that Fence has generated.
That spirit has nurtured new talent – take a bow KT Tunstall – rescued the bruised career of the Beta Band, and coaxed James Yorkston to grow from journeyman rocker into a songwriter of rare poetic grace.
The 39-year-old Yorkston has been a name to watch and drop ever since his 2002 debut, Moving Up Country, but on last year’s (fifth) album, When The Haar Rolls In, he raised his game, creating a gentle song suite that slipped between acoustic folk-rap and Brittenesque evocations of landscape, notably on the title track. Clearly sensing the record was a personal landmark, Yorkston and Domino released it in multiple formats, including deluxe editions with other people singing Yorkston’s songs and an album of remixes, all of which reflects another virtue laid down by Fence; playful profligacy....full text
DrownedinsoundIn the course of dutifully checking some dates pertaining to James Yorkston’s back catalogue, the man’s Wikipedia entry alerted me to his appearance on a compilation album released by V2 two years ago, entitled Acoustic 07. It features a Yorkston song alongside Paul Weller, Morcheeba, Aimee Mann and Rufus Wainwright, among many others whose reliance on ‘acoustic’ varies greatly. Although it blatantly exists to be purchased by the 12-CDs-a-year set, the fact that V2 saw fit to include our subject on said compilation isn’t in itself that surprising or unusual. Certainly, Yorkston had garnered a healthy following by 2007, being a regular presence at the UK’s smaller, boutique-ier festivals with his band The Athletes, while his records have largely been warmly listenable fare from his own rich Scottish burr on in. While the revitalizing of folk-rock’s commercial potential had benefitted many other artists to a greater extent than it did Yorkston, it didn’t do him any harm either.
There’s the rub: when Domino released his second single, ‘The Lang Toun’, in early 2002, they surely couldn’t have known that there’d be any extensive audience for a dude who composed ten-minute-long, harmonium-wheezy intersections of somber Britfolk and vaguely Krautrock-ish bubbling rhythm. Yet he’s established himself: Folk Songs is the fifth studio album for Domino, and couldn’t be more prosaically titled, featuring 11 traditional numbers – mostly from Britain, with one each from Ireland and Spain respectively. Does it represent a clarion call to trace back the noble genre’s knotted roots and highlight the Formica void at the heart of too much modern folk (cracks about mobile phone ad soundtracks might be pretty played out and straw mannish at this point, but they’re pretty accurate too)?...full text
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