Venue: The Louisiana, Bristol
Date: 13th September 2002
Author: Tom Vincent
James Yorkston used to play bass with a punk band in Fife. Upon getting fed up with ‘going to universities and playing to fresh faced youngsters’ he decided to go off and do his own thing. His own thing turns out to be drone-based folk in the traditional sense, i.e. fairly long periods of holding the same chord. And it’s pretty good.
The gig tonight is probably what you’d call intimate: people sitting on the floor, band walks through the crowd to get on stage, that sort of thing. Backed by double bass and pedal steel and played by two Athletes, the songs are pared down versions of the lush arrangements that feature in his recorded work.
Yorkston’s lyrics are an important part of the music. For me this is most evident on 6.30 is just way too early, which, as well as opening with the title, contains the lines ‘The girl on the train wasn’t giving me the eye, she was worried I’d steal her bags’. They’re all quite touching, and feel very genuine.
There are some traditional folk tunes thrown in; James has an unreleased album of them, and talking to him he seems to really enjoy playing the old standards. I Know My Love was arranged brilliantly, and had to be one of the songs of the gig. I’ve seen this played by the Corrs, when it was appalling and twee, but the band really make it their own: a fast paced song about unrequited love that reflected an appropriate amount of angst.
James Yorkston’s music is complicated and grown up, much more sophisticated than many of the other bands that can be loosely grouped as the “new acoustic movement”. But he does this without being pretentious and brings something very interesting and refreshing to an area of music that has become rather over stuffed with mediocre acts.