Review : James Yorkston - I Was a Cat from a Book
BbcJames Yorkston’s fifth album proper deals with some meaty, adult themes – from the complexities of long-term relationships and the heaving onslaught of depression to the selective nature of memory.
But what colours its more striking moments is a palpable sense of injustice. Border Song is a breathless tumble of words, images and instrumentation, Yorkston spitting out counsel and loose narrative until the lines bleed together, while the closing I Can Take All This bitterly rebukes an unnamed deity.
A couple of years ago, as Yorkston prepared to take part in the Fence Collective’s annual Homegame mini-festival, his young daughter was taken seriously ill. Working on I Was a Cat from a Book gave him an opportunity to vent his feelings and combat the sense of helplessness he no doubt dealt with on a daily basis.
To that end, The Fire & the Flames forms this album’s affecting centrepiece, wounded and sombre where those previously mentioned are all bluster and chaos. As a meditation on a parent shielding their child from incomprehensible truths, it is unsparing; in the light of Yorkston’s own situation, it is devastating....full text
GuardianThree stars feels a bit churlishly ungenerous to James Yorkston, a man with a vision so defined and individual that you feel compelled to take him entirely on his own terms, or not at all. His fifth album of original material – and his first for four years – rolls by like a river, all finger-picked guitars and delicate arrangements, and atop it all Yorkston's tremulous voice, quavering through lyrics that are poetic in intent but often just too dense to parse. I Can Take All This, for example, manages to cram 600 words into three minutes: this is not a man who lives by the maxim: "Don't bore us, get to the chorus." Sometimes the phrasemaking is devastatingly simple – "I am slow at crossing borders/ But once there I try to offer unconditional love," he sings on Two – but often it whispers by without sinking in its claws, and you think: just slow down, and speak up. But if he did, would he still be James Yorkston?...full text
IndependentFor his latest album, James Yorkston augments his usual band with members of Lamb and the Cinematic Orchestra.
The resulting extended instrumental palette has brought a new depth to the arrangements but has added little transparency to Yorkston's often bewildering lyrics.
On "Border Song", the result sounds like a blurted stream of consciousness over bustling drums, piano and fiddle; clarinet and piano lend a relaxed air to the old-timey duet "Just As Scared"; and the baffling insect observations of "Spanish Ants" ride gently chugging harmonium, guitar and accordion. Most intriguing of all is "Sometimes the Act of Giving Love", where, over wistful violin and piano, Yorkston muses bitterly on wasted emotions....full text
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