Everything Sacred was one of last year’s most pleasant surprises. The debut collaboration between James Yorkston of the East Neuk of Fife, New Delhi’s Suhail Yusuf Khan and Jon Thorne of the Isle of Wight wed traditional Anglo-Celtic folk music to throbbing jazz basslines. But the most affecting element throughout was the presence of Khan’s traditional Hindi singing, and his sarangi – a bowed stringed Indian instrument forged of red cedar. Khan plays it like he sings: at times gently, often impassionedly, but always evocatively. The combination with Yorkston’s folky paeans was haunting and here, barely a year later, they’ve done it again.
The chemistry between all three players is exceptional. On second track Samant Saarang / Just A Bloke, Khan and Thorne – a double bassist of real pedigree – work up a hypnotic backbone that evokes the spirit of Terry Riley (or more recently, the intoxicating Riley tribute by James Holden and Camilo Tirado), while Yorkston plainly sings about one of the starkest and understated issue of our time: loneliness (and possibly depression) among young men.
Bales, a simple two-minute affair, uses the swirling strings of the sarangi to remind us that few lyricists remember things as beautifully as James Yorkston, while on False True Piya, the vocalists trade English and Hindi verses about phantom lovers, amid a rising tide of spectral strings and bass.
A number of traditional ballads feature, but the familiar track that excels is The Blues You Sang, which originally appeared on Yorkston’s Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society (2014). A tearjerker written after the death of his former bassist Doogie Paul, the addition of Khan’s spectacular voice adds a primal tone to grief that’s already present in abundance, while the dextrous bass of Thorne rumbles appropriately throughout. It’s the highlight of an album that’s put together in the same vein it’s played: eloquently, skilfully and tastefully.
Listen to: The Blues You Sang, Bale
Buy Yorkston / Thorne / Khan - Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars on Double LP/CD from Norman Records