Yorkston's almost conversationally murmured, brogue-less vocals fall somewhere between those of Nick Drake and Ray Davies. He has a way with words that periodically startles, as on "Hotel": 'The window's open and the winter's rushing in'. His lyrics tend to convey a specific and usually autobiographical sense of time and place, dwelling mostly on affairs of the heart.
The all-acoustic arrangements featuring guitar, bass, banjo, piano, violin and recurrent surges of accordion are somehow warm and wintry at once, suggesting a fondness for the kind of alt-country Americana plied by Will Oldham et al. Most of The Athletes are multi-instrumentalists, and they artfully shadow Yorkston with backing vocals almost throughout.
The harmonica and lap steel that punctuated their 2002 debut Moving Up Country have been dropped, and in general there's a more stripped-down, live feel with increased focus on Yorkston's song writing on this second outing. Holly Taylor's occasional low whistle lends the most identifiably Celtic influence, further underlined by the inclusion of a couple of traditional songs.The first of these is the murder ballad entitled "Edward", and its halting sing-song tune contrasts with Yorkston's understated original melodies, which take longer to sink in. The Snows They Melt The Soonest is radically reinvented as a trancelike jam that suggests Can or The Velvet Underground unplugged.
It makes you wonder what this band would sound like electrified, or how soon it will be before they release a whole album of traditional songs, since Yorkston claims to have enough unreleased material to do so. The six-track bonus EP that comes with this beautifully packaged edition seems a little superfluous, but it does suggest a convergence between the original and traditional material, perhaps hinting at a future direction for this surprisingly engaging artist. --Jon Lusk
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If you are thinking of purchesing this record though, I must recomend you search out for the limited version which comes with the free ep. The 6 tracks on the ep are some of the most beautiful I have ever heard and rival some of the album tracks. A shame they weren't all on the one album, as I don't think this ep is available seperately.
It's mellow and melanchony yet warm and uplifting at the same time. I have listened to it half a dozen times and it already feels like a wonderful old friend already and every time I find a new favourite song.
Check their website to hear some samples and see them live - they're even better.
The genre? Sort of folk/country, I guess. Guitar, violin, banjo all feature prominently. If that worries you, don't let it. I am not a country music lover - much of my collection features synths and samples only - but this album is something special.
Wonderful, warm, uplifting songs of love. I admit there are some here which raised the hairs on my neck and genuinely brought me to tears.
Why not give it a go?
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