James Yorkston – The Route to the Harmonium

James Yorkston's latest solo album is a captivating listen that demands your attention

Album Review by Alan O'Hare | 18 Feb 2019
  • James Yorkston The Route to the Harmonium
Album title: The Route to the Harmonium
Artist: James Yorkston
Label: Domino
Release date: 22 Feb

The songs on The Route to the Harmonium are delicate beings; looser than your standard folk fare, but with lush brushstrokes offering movement across the still waters of James Yorkston's deliberate fingerpicking. Tunes like Oh Me, Oh My, Brittle and Your Beauty Could Not Save You are lilting laments lolloping along on beds of autoharp, chimes and muted brass. There's whistling, too, but don't let that put you off.

A couple of spoken word pieces hold their own in such melodic company, but it's the twisted tales at the heart of tunes such as The Blue of the Thistle and Like Bees to Foxglove that will stay with listeners. There's the bruised intimacy of Robert Wyatt on offer, too, as sparse instrumentation and long instrumental notes demand your attention – but it's Yorkston's voice that will capture you. Whispered stories are nothing new in folk music, but there is something more compelling happening here, especially when the Scottish author breathes in tune down your ear over brushed drums or oscillating organs.

Affectedly quaint? Perhaps. But in a genre getting more crowded by the day, it's the quiet ones who can often shout louder than war. 

Listen to: Your Beauty Could Not Save You, The Irish Wars of Independence, Oh Me, Oh My