James Yorkston is far too gentlemanly to criticise. His songs are as honest as the day is long, I think that’s how the saying goes. He also happens to be responsible for one of the finest folk records in recent years with his wonderful debut Moving Up Country, a continual series of memorable hooks and finely pitched instrumentation. It’s a wistful and quite beautiful record born from the organic with not a whiff of pretension.
Skip four more records and here we are back with the Fife born folky and a jazz-trained band in tow (what happened to the Athletes?). And whilst I like this record – in fact midway through the heartbreaking A Short Blues I adore this record – I still feel it may be shorter on hooks and genuinely stirring moments than its predecessors.
Yet Yorkston’s tones remain lowly and unassuming, and his whispered croon on Kath with Rhodes is particularly affective. The track runs on a flow of cymbals and simple electric piano, allowing the singer, and his female harmoniser, to create the song’s melancholic personality. It’s such slow reflection that works best here. The faster moments lack bite yet have already traded the signature subtlety for a rolling pace; you’ll hear it on I Can Take All This and Border Song.
The truth is not many artists can create such an earthy atmosphere as Yorkston, his writing and performances always feel organic and born from the heart and the sunset hours. It therefore follows that he’s never made a bad album, and whilst I Was a Cat from a Book isn’t up there with his best, it maintains the Fife man’s tradition of delivering quality music.