James Yorkston is at his home in Fife, an amplified voice inside a tiny telephone speaker, but still not loud enough to wake a sleeping child. Which is just as well, because it’s Sunday evening and only a few minutes have elapsed since James’ two year-old son drifted off to sleep. “For what it’s worth, my kids really like the record” he begins, “I’ve been using it to get them off to sleep in the car. It’s proved a useful tool…”
Ten years ago, when James Yorkston signed to Domino Records, there were no small children on which to road-test new material. Instead there was John Peel, who upon hearing James’ debut album Moving Up Country, invited James to session for him. There was Bert Jansch, who hosted James’ first ever solo show. There was John Martyn, who invited the then unsigned James to tour with him – a rare event indeed. And in the interim, there has been a fanbase which has steadily expanded with every ensuing record.
We all go through the years pressing “refresh” on our existing worldview. James’ albums document that process with an emotional acuity that gently dismantles all resistance: the little, life-changing epiphanies detailed on Just Beyond The River (2004), the minimal, midsummer memoirs of The Year Of The Leopard (2006), the stellar musical leap represented by When The Haar Rolls In (2008), easily comparable to, say, Bert Jansch or Jackie Leven at their respective peaks;
and, in 2009’s collaboration with The Big Eyes Family Players, Folk Songs, a conscious embracing of folk traditions to which James had once seemed ambivalent about aligning himself. Later that same year, James branched away from music slightly when one of the Fife galleries held an exhibition of his paintings, and more recently, Domino published his book of tour diaries, It’s Lovely To Be Here. “I just follow my muse,” he says, and hope what interests me will interest other people…”
As a family man now, It must have been a wrench, you say, to leave home and spend days in the North Wales recording studio where – like all his albums – I Was A Cat From A Book was recorded. “I was pleased to be working,” is James’ honest response. “As a parent, you give yourself over completely to this thing. But you’re not a saint. Those feelings have to go somewhere. I didn’t plan it this way, but there’s a certain amount of anger on this record.”
James Yorkston LIVE
Tuesday, 13th January 2015 | 20:00 CET
Heimathafen Neukölln| Karl-Marx-Straße 141 | 12043 Berlin/Neukölln