Hello everyone, So – There’s a new album available for pre-order from Domino Records. The album comes out on August 10th, but it can be pre-ordered now, as a: limited edition 3 disc set, all for £20 from HERE.

What’s included?

  • Limited to 1000 copies
  • CD album
  • CD album of live session with alternate takes and different tracks
  • Full length (whatever that means) DVD of live session
  • Poster

That’s pretty good, I think. Not good enough? Well how about….

If you order your Special Edition before 6th July, you can have your name included on the Special Edition artwork! That’s pretty exciting. Now, at the Homegame Festival a fortnight ago, a guy came up to me and told me he was going to order it and have his daughter’s name put on the artwork. That’s true paternal love for you. I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that those of you who don’t do that are bad parents, of course. Nice idea though. Alternatively, you could have your partners name on. Or your dog. Or cat, even.

So. I don’t think they’ll let rude or offensive names be put on the artwork. Maybe though? Wha’ kens?

Here’s the press release:

James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players / Folk Songs

James Yorkston, resident of the East Neuk of Fife, returns in the company of The Big Eyes Family Players with a new album of traditional songs from the length and breadth of the Great Britain & Ireland and one tune from Galicia in Spain. After a decade which has seen folk music morph into nu-folk, mobile phone-ad folk, mortgage-folk, smoothie-folk and so on, Yorkston has reached back into the tradition of song and place and drawn a line in the sand.

“The idea behind this album of folk songs first surfaced around 2000 / 2001: To record an album of traditional songs for Fence Records of St. Andrews, to sell as a companion piece to my own work which they were then punting out to unsuspecting golfers. So I set to it, learning songs from cassettes and CDs by Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie and Nic Jones, Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr; recording them to various states of success and undress. I also tackled a few Lal Waterson tracks – Scarecrow & Fine Horseman. Lal’s songwriting of course I’ve revisited since. Alas, it ended up unreleased – Domino Records, in a rare lapse of good judgement, decided to offer me a record contract and the folk album got put on the back burner.  Being miserly, the songs I’d recorded already, or had marked for that original traditional album, were mostly put on subsequent albums or EPs. So, this album here consists of 11 “new” tunes. New as in chosen and recorded especially for this record. But they’re not new songs, by any means.

I picked up The Big Eyes Family Players somewhere along the way. Any touring musician will tell you – CDs from punters and fellow musicians seem to end up in your pockets at the end of every gig. At the end of every tour there’s a least half a dozen CDs, CDrs, etc.  One such CD I discovered was by Big Eyes; and lo-and-behold, I loved what I heard. I contacted the main guy, James Green, and we’ve been in touch ever since. When I decided to resurrect this traditional album idea, he was an obvious choice of partner in crime. I didn’t want to work with my usual band The Athletes, but there was no slur there, they’ll be back on board for the next James Yorkston album proper – I just fancied trying something different.”

James Green began recording in Leeds as Big Eyes around the year 2000, with the intention of creating his own version of ‘classical music’ despite knowing very little about the genre. After writing a few songs/pieces on his own, he plucked up enough courage to try and get some help to play them. Nine years on, and now based in Sheffield, the group have become The Big Eyes Family Players. To date, TBEFP have released three albums: ‘Do The Musiking’ in 2006 (Pickled Egg); ‘Donkeysongs’ in 2008 (Rusted Rail); and ‘Warm Room’ in 2009 (Pickled Egg).

JY asked me if I wanted to work an album of folk songs with him. I was thrilled at the offer and said yes, of course. It then occurred to me that I knew little about the folk tradition (a recurring theme) but threw caution to the wind and the rest is history…”

About the songs:

 “Most of these songs were learned from recordings from the 1960s folk revival, a fair few from Anne Briggs – but that’s quite fitting, as it was her wonderful singing that originally rekindled my thoughts on traditional music, after a well-spent youth making as much noise as I could. “ – James Yorkston

Hills Of Greenmoor – I first heard this being sang by Anne Briggs on her album ‘Sing a song for you’ – where her vocal line dances around a wonderful bouzouki part. It’s a Northern Irish song, I think, concerning the hunting of the hare, sang from the point of view of both the hunters and the hunted.

Just As The Tide Was Flowing –  “I first heard this song via a version by Shirley and Dolly Collins…I chose it for this album as it seems quite at odds with my understanding of the ‘folk tradition’. The song is very fragile and brief. It doesn’t tell you very much, but instead just leaves you with feelings of longing and sadness and resignation. I didn’t want to copy the S&DC version, but somehow capture the essence of its fragility and intimacy.” – James Green.

Martinmas Time – Another Anne Briggs one, from her Classic Anne Briggs CD, which I borrowed from the library purely because she looked so bonny on the cover. There are dozens of versions of this song, with varying lyrics and such, but Anne Briggs’ version tops all I’ve heard, for the simplicity and beauty in her voice. Aside from this version, of course. I think James Green stole the bass line he plays from the great German band Can.

Mary Connaught & James O’Donnell – This is an Irish song, which I half-learned from Peter Kennedy’s collection. I’m no music reader, so I wrote a new melody and arrangement. No harm done. I love the lyric and the story behind it – a shipwreck produced plentiful wood and the local church decided to collect it all and build a chapel where Mary Connaught’s house stood. She objected, quite reasonably, so wrote this song about it to spread the word of her unfortunate situation and view of the church.

Thorneymoor Woods – Another poacher’s song and another one I learned from the singing of Anne Briggs. I first recorded this for Radio 3’s Late Junction programme, with Chris Thile on mandolin. That version was like a bluegrass breakdown – this one is more, erm, sedate. I suppose I’m duty bound to say this version’s better… There’s a great version, Thorneymoor Park, by Jasper Smith, which is worth hearing.

I Went To Visit The Roses – A second Irish one from Peter Kennedy’s collection. Again, I was initially drawn by the lyric so built a melody around it. There are alternative lyrics where the hero is seen as not quite so polite, but this was the first one I came across, so it made sense to stick to it. The harmonium in the middle sections was recorded on an old English instrument with Mouse Proof pedals, which I found in the street in Edinburgh. It takes a fair bit of fit-blawin’ – mouse proof or not, its bellows are holier than thou.

Pandeirada de Entrimo – I first heard this performed by Andrew Cronshaw on his Earthed In Cloud Valley album. I attempted this tune once before, as an ending to my debut single The Lang Toun, but I cut it short before the refrain kicks in. Here it is in all its glory. A Galician tune, from North-West Spain.

Little Musgrave – A much loved song that dates back (at least) to the 16thC. I can’t remember if it was Nic Jones’ version I heard first or Christy Moore’s, but Christy’s is after Nic’s anyhow, so I guess it’s fairly irrelevant. I love this song, but those two and many other towering versions exist, so the only way I felt comfortable was to mess with the melody a bit. That doesn’t bother me one bit though. This song exists in so many different formats as it is; different titles, lyrics, melodies – plots even – one more won’t cause any harm.

Rufford Park Poachers – Learned from a Nic Jones CD on one of the many long train journeys I undertake for shows and such. His version is all sinister guitar and menace – but there’s no way I could replicate his guitar work – or the menace (!) – So I changed the melody a wee bit and came up with this. Pip Dylan’s pedal steel is eeking away in the background. At first when I asked Pip to play on this, I sent him a copy of the demo and he wrote back asking me when I’d started writing songs in Olde English.

Sovay – This famous old song has been sung by almost everyone, yourself included no doubt, but that’s no surprise, it’s a great wee tale. My particular favourites are by Brass Monkey and Julie Murphy, but I doubt I’ve heard one tenth of the versions. As a song, Sovay exists in many different forms – titles (The Female Highwayman), Sovay’s name (Sylvie, Sally, etc), but it’s the same basic premise. She dresses up as a highwayman and robs her own man, who proceeds to become a tad embarrassed. Ach well.

Low Down In The Broom – I learned this song from Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr’s Shape of Scrape album – where I also got I Know My Love, a song I played many moons ago with my band. This song was a bit of an afterthought, really – we had a spare day so rattled it off quickly. During it’s recording, it became known as Johnny Cash, which wasn’t a reference to its ability to make us money or worldwide fame, more to its bassline.