Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It’s a rare joy when an artist with unfailingly high standards over a decade-long career reaches a new level of excellence – and, with his sixth album proper, Fife’s James Yorkston has managed just that. It’s also unusual for a 16-song long double-album to be bereft of filler; again TCRAWS doesn’t disappoint. It’s a songwriterly tour de force that swiftly becomes a loved and familiar old friend, albeit one with a savage tongue – and wit to match.
Since his debut in 2002, each James Yorkston album has been a semi-structured unspooling of the mind and heart, captained by a host of disparate producers yet threaded together in one lifelong narrative. Each collection is slightly evolved, bearing different sounds, stories, and personnel, but intrinsically connected to his life and personal mythology. As a folksinger, one of Yorkston's talents is to make it sound loose and easy when the truth is that few artists are able to carry on this kind of meaningful and distinctive conversation for so long without wearing out their welcome on the barstool.
The time for Fife’s softly spoken James Yorkston to be ranked as one of the country’s great songwriters is long overdue. His honesty, wry humour and rippling folk guitar are on peak form on his collaboration-focused eighth album. ‘The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society’ includes in its membership former Fence Collective pals KT Tunstall and The Pictish Trail, long-term partners John Thorne and Emma Smith and, bringing a swish of sensitive production tricks, fidgety Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor.
Before building a fine body of work as a solo artist, Scottish folk singer-songwriter James Yorkston came to prominence as a member of the Fence Collective. That urge for collaboration is apparent on his eighth album for Domino, with Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor producing and KT Tunstall contributing vocals. A hushed, thoughtful collection, it finds Yorkston reflecting on the death of Doogie Paul, his double bass player, on the powerfully moving Broken Wave.
James Yorkston fans get their money's worth: dense with dialogue and spanning 16 tracks, the folk songwriter's eighth album feels like an hour with old friends. Produced by Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, who also contributes vocals alongside fellow Chip member Rob Smoughton, KT Tunstall, the Pictish Trail and Fimber Bravo of 20th Century Steel Band, each song is another drink, another drab tale of morality, or of hope and reflection – all set in a dimly lit bar. Although fairly eclectic, the overarching theme here is kindness, whether it be on the bucolic Feathers Are Falling or The Very, Very Best, a song that could only be written by the wizened hand of a man who's lived through the harrowing and heartwarming.
James Yorkston appears to be growing old gracefully. While many a middle-aged man spends his days desperately clinging to an ever-evaporating youth, the unassuming Scottish songwriter is moving through the decades with dignity..
When you have a sound and talent as singular as James Yorkston’s, it makes sense that you wouldn’t try to reinvent yourself over the course of a career. With his 2002 debut Moving Up Country, the Scotsman introduced himself as a most contemporary folk singer. Though he mainly used traditional instrumentation and songwriting styles, he did not come across as a throwback at all.
James Yorkston has developed many traits in his long career, which spans over a decade. For one thing, he’s not a man who can succumb to an easy chorus; instead, he lets songs steadily flow without too many bangs and whistles. He delivers lyrics in a comforting, gravelly tone that rarely shifts. The arrangements are delicate, demanding the listener to really pay close attention to hear all the layers.
A new James Yorkston album – his sixth full-length LP of original material, and the first since 2012’s I Was A Cat From A Book – and on first listen it seems that little has changed in the Fifer’s soothing sonic arsenal. The same dreamy, half-awakened mood drifts across everything, songs gently rolling their way across your consciousness as Yorkston half-sings, half-talks his way through something soothing. It’s essentially the same pattern that he established back in 2002 on his landmark debut Moving Up Country, so it’s not too harsh to wonder what it is about The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society that could make it stand out.
On his latest release, James Yorkston proves that there is still life in the old Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society yet with an album which highlights the singer-songwriter’s relationship with his musically illustrious hometown. It’s been a turbulent year for music in the small fishing village of Cellardyke and the surrounding area of Fife’s East Neuk. It’s almost a year ago exactly since the much celebrated, Fife based micro-label, Fence Records, suffered a serious blow to the lo-fi-folk chops after a parting of ways between the label’s co-conspirators, Kenny Anderson (AKA, King Creosote), and Johnny Lynch (AKA The Pictish Trail).