James Yorkston - I Was A Cat from a Book

...what makes listening to James Yorkston holding forth so appealing is the fact that his doleful and acidic barbs are often aimed at himself or used to propel the story...

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A beautiful record; but then you shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t think of a bad record James Yorkston has made to be honest, though I am sure he would quickly cut away at this mild hyperbole with a salty riposte or two. There you go. Always changing, always the same. Even when – as with the duets with Jill O Sullivan and Kathryn Williams on this LP, certain adjustments are made to the standard, carefully crafted “Yorkston sound” - there’s still that miniaturist’s eye for a detail and a surgeon’s sense on what to cut away at.

The female vocals seem to give this LP a decidedly poppy air at times. Warm and slightly sentimental, Just as Scared is part 30’s dance shuffle, part tap-room sing song whereas Kath with Rhodes adds a bucolic trippy key sound to this soulful lullaby - the sort of thing that turned up on Super Furry Animals records about 10 years ago. Just as the melody settles down into this comfortable nursery rhyme on Rhodes, Yorkston turns everything on its head three minutes in with a soft refrain – his ability to pull the listener up sharp at points in his music is little short of masterful.

His trademark wit is in evidence, of course: what makes listening to James Yorkston holding forth so appealing is the fact that his doleful and acidic barbs are often aimed at himself or used to propel the story, as in Border Song or I Can Take All This; even though the latter is a pretty savage monologue, the lyrics seemingly crafted from a set of half remembered arguments… He’s never been afraid to soundtrack his personal ups and downs to music either; tracks like The Fire and the Flames or A Short Blues can catch you unawares with the clarity of the message or the appropriateness of the metaphor. At times he surpasses his old sound, using muted but lush arrangements and a gossamer soft vocal. This Line Says and The Fire and the Flames are absolute pearls: the former’s woozy pastoralism redolent of Nick Drake or Iren Lovasz and Teagrass and the latter’s use of metaphor against a determined and incredibly quiet vocal line is stunning.

The man’s a treasure, and you’d be daft to argue against his talent.