The Independent newspaper, written by Tim Cooper. ****
“Here’s the next number,” announces James Yorkston, studying a piece of paper: “Three hundred and fifty-eight.” Few singers would draw the raffle mid-set, but it’s entirely in character for a performer whose unassuming, natural rapport is at the heart of his appeal.
A member of the Fence Collective, a loose association of Scottish singer-songwriters based in Fife – among them King Creosote, Lone Pigeon and Pip Dylan – Yorkston is used to entertaining raucous but reverential pub audiences at their regular “Sunday Socials”.
Today, performing solo with his acoustic guitar instead of his usual backing group, The Athletes, he’s a long way from home. But his easy manner at the mic makes it seem as if we’ve all been transported from this smoky club in Kilburn to the Ship Tavern in Anstruther.
The burly Yorkston looks like the strong silent type. He certainly seems a man of few words from the biography on his website; it reads, in its entirety: “James is originally from Fife, but now lives in Edinburgh.” But onstage, he’s a genial, laid-back conversationalist with a deadpan wit – “I’m not going to call this my pre-raffle-ite number” – who reveals himself in his haunting, Celtic-flavoured songs. They eschew the storytelling style for a spare poetry, evoking romances set against a rugged backdrop of untamed nature.