Warm, natural, humorous, gentle, empathic ….all words that justifiably get bandied about in the scrabble to describe James Yorkston’s music. What is often overlooked is his calm navigation of different pathways around the songwriting landscape, quietly opening the gate onto something new.
He’s worked with Kieran Hebden, Simon Raymonde, Rustin Man and Alexis Taylor over the course of his record making to satisfy that inventive streak and more recently explored unchartered possibilities in the thrilling indo-jazz-folk trio Yorkston/Thorne/Khan. So it’s no surprise that his new album ‘The Wide, Wide River’, to be released on 22nd January via Domino, sees him hunkering down with The Second Hand Orchestra from Sweden to discover another turn in his story telling.
Hearing where the collaboration takes Yorkston’s music may seem a long way off during these dark lockdown days but to help us through the collective are sharing the first song from the record, ‘Struggle’. It’s a tune that takes its own time, nothing is rushed as the chiming guitars and chugging chords lead you all the way to JY’s vocal, all sweet, real and lightly scuffed. Written lovingly to his own children the song deals honestly with everyday difficult things. As Yorkston explains “It’s me telling my kids that it’s ok to not be ok, and that indeed, sometimes I struggle”.
Building around looping phrases, spontaneous harmonies, flutes and fiddles, the communal sound of the Second Hand Orchestra on ‘Struggle’ ripples around the Yorkston’s singing. It’s all played with a joyful focus and shared understanding that steadily takes you into the swell….more magic from the man in the characteristic cap.