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Album Review: James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

2 min read

Folk music seems to be in amidst resurgence recently. Ever since Mumford & Sons catapulted their Christian rock in disguise onto huge stages and even bigger record sales, the world cannot get enough of that thing they do where they start quiet and get louder whilst stamping their feet on anything they can find. And so we find ourselves in a position where every mainstream radio station on the planet seemingly takes ten minutes of every hour and devotes it to the sounds of frantically strummed acoustic guitar and violently plucked banjo, which is lovely, if you happen to part of this recent folk renaissance.

James Yorkston - The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing SocietyAway from the parade of tweed and unkempt hair however, is a whole community of actual folk musicians who must be getting pretty pissed off with what is now apparently expected of them. James Yorkston is one of these folk musicians. The Scottish troubadour is now twelve years and nine albums into his career, which means he is a needle stuck firmly in groove, having found the pocket in which he exists a few albums ago. This album finds him in a wistful, melancholy, and yet offhandedly witty mood. Guy Fawkes’ Signature is the song at which Yorkston is his most charming, but the mood of the record is set by The Blues You Sang, a soft, sweet song, and the template for most of the tracks that follow it.

For a lot of albums, the fact that the songs follow a pattern would make for a tedious listening experience. However, here it makes for a comforting flow, with every second drifting along amiably, but never pointlessly, until the whole record becomes a rather lovely swell. There is a laid back quality to the production. You feel as if you are sat next to Yorkston, and that he is singing directly into your ear, his legs crossed so as not to accidently spill the tea you have sat on the table.

If this all sounds disarmingly polite, it’s because it is. That is by no means a bad thing, but it does mean that a specific mood is required in order to want to listen to this record. It is also a serious commitment at over an hour long and perhaps could have done with some trimming, if only to make it a more manageable size. If you can ignore these faults, and strip the whole thing back to its songwriting basics then you are left with what seems like a deeply personal record, begging for you to come into its world.