James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society
James Yorkston’s eighth album of original material finds the erudite Fifer facing up to mortality in his most sparse and contemplative album to date. Yorkston’s gift for lush folk songs has long been underpinned by his defining feature: the man is a master storyteller, a 21st century seanchaí, crafting bruised vignettes, steeped in breathless narratives and candid reflection. Produced by Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, CRAWS is not as immediate as its predecessors but possesses a rare and subtle charm.
Taylor peppers the album with delicate, near-invisible flourishes, leaving Yorkston’s gentle intonation and acoustic guitar to the fore. And the man is in wonderful voice: on the masterful Feathers Are Falling, Yorkston eschews his usual half-spoken delivery in favour of swoonsome vocals while KT Tunstall is on hand throughout to provide both foil and cushion for Yorkston’s laments. Despite the often despairing subject matter, he's never downbeat or depressing; in fact CRAWS is uniquely life-affirming. It’s also incredibly warm and inviting, as one would hope any true wassailing society to be. [Colm McAuliffe]