James Yorkston remains one of the country’s best kept musical secrets.
Chris White 2007
An established fixture on the U.K. folk scene for several years now, James Yorkston remains one of the country’s best kept musical secrets.
An old-fashioned storyteller blessed with a rare gift for melody and mood, the Scotsman was an important early member of the Fife-based Fence Collective, a loose collection of like-minded artists which also includes KT Tunstall, King Creosote and Lone Pigeon among its alumni. Roaring The Gospel, Yorkston’s fourth album, may be comprised of EP tracks, overseas releases and new material, but unlike some collections of this type, the quality on offer here is consistently high.
Ably supported by backing band The Athletes, the singer spins his bittersweet yarns of love and liquor in a laconic, world-weary croon not unlike fellow countryman Aidan Moffatt of Arab Strap. But while Falkirk’s finest were often stark and abrasive, Yorkston and his Athletes bathe their songs with warmth, allowing them to nestle snugly in a lush bed of tenderly plucked acoustic guitars, sighing woodwind and gently wheezing accordion.
Highlights of Roaring The Gospel include the booze-soaked lament ‘'Seven Streams'’, featuring wry couplets such as ‘I asked him how he had got this far, he laughed and said by propping up the bar’, a lovely alternative take of ‘'Moving Up Country, Roaring The Gospel'’ from Yorkstons’s first (and best) album Moving Up Country and the traditional ‘'Blue Bleezin’Blind Drunk'’, which tells the tale of a man who stays out all night to avoid his quick-tempered wife. Best of all is closing track ‘'La Magnifica'’- James alone with his guitar sounding like a blissed-out Bert Jansch at the peak of his powers.
It doesn’t all work – a somewhat lacklustre cover of Tim Buckley’s classic '‘Song To The Siren'’ and the rambling, nine minute ‘The Lang Toun’ are disappointing compared to the standard set elsewhere. But overall, Roaring The Gospel is a rare treat for those listeners who prefer the ramshackle, organic intimacy of an impromptu fireside sing-along to the lighters-aloft epic choruses of stadium rock.