on 17 August 2012
This is James Yorkston's 5th album in some 10 years, and it is up there with his strong debut, Moving Up Country, as one of his best efforts to date. This Fife based singer songwriter who is associated with the Fence Collective generally has a quiet hushed vocal style, low key and subdued, almost conversational. Songs are often personal, the arrangements sometimes feel a bit woozy, but give this album a few listens and the songs grow on you, and there is a lot of charm, the album gradually envelops you like a favourite old blanket,the arrangements are subtle and organic,growing on you to leave a warm glow.
For this album he has recorded with a different set of musicians from his usual band, and it was all recorded over just a few days in a Welsh studio, with largely live recordings. Another well known hushed vocalist, Kathryn Williams, provides supporting vocals on one track Kath with Rhodes, a pleasant dreamy gentle song subtley embellished with abstract electronics to good effect. 2 of the tracks are for him more raucous and relatively rock out, Border Song has stream of consiousness lyrics, a long narrative with no chorus,with the words almost spat out at great haste , while closing track I Can Take This All sounds quite angry, with a more full on band sound. This contrasts with his usual more introspective mode that is his typical default setting. He sings a more upbeat duet with Jill O'Sullivan, on Just As Scared, which is bright, breezy, catchy, with a chorus of "You've Really got a Hold on Me", and the clarinet of Sarah Scutt on this and some of the other tracks deserves a special mention for creating a sublime sound to quality arrangements. This is one of my favourite tracks, but rather atypical of the album as a whole.
A keynote track is The Fire and the Flames, written when one of his children was seriously ill, expressing his love for them and wanting them to get well again , interweaved with an anecdote about a starling he finds with a broken wing that he dispatches to put it out of its misery. The song A Short Blues refers to bouts of depression he sometimes suffers. As you can see, the subject matter can be somewhat melancholy, but the arrangements are pleasantly warming ,sometimes almost jazzy, with double bass , piano, violin, and his quality finger picked guitar .
The album cover is an interesting collage of a Cat and birds made from fancy patterned material. He is a distinctly different artist who seems to be here for the long term, creating a varied body of work over the last decade, who seems to take a great deal of time and effort over crafting his songs, and this album along with his debut are 2 highlights of his career to date, well worth a listen. A rather understated , modest and unique talent who deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
It's fair to say that as an artist, James Yorkston is a bit of a cult....that's c..u..l..t! In common with other fellow Yorkstonians, I have enjoyed all of James's album releases. Naturally,some more than others and 'Cat' falls so far in the 'others' category. Not as instantly accessible as 2008's 'When the Haar rolls in' nor falling into the minor classic category of-to me anyway- James' finest album 'the year of the leopard'. But it's reet grand all the same! Sitting quite happily with 'moving up country, 'just beyond the river' 'roaring the gospel and 'folksongs'.
I notice that he has been getting a lot more publicity in the news and music media recently. Hopefully,more people will be prompted to investigate his impressive catalogue.