James Yorkston is on The Route to The Harmonium

James Yorkston the Route to the HarmoniumFolk troubadour James Yorkston’s career got off to a flying start when he supported the late John Martyn on all 27 of his UK and Irish dates, having impressed the singer with a single-track demo. While on this tour in the early 00s, Lawrence Bell caught a show and Yorkston's released music on Domino Records ever since.

There’s an idyllic setting for Yorkston’s new release: The Route to The Harmonium. A ramshackle old loft space once used to repair fishing nets is now Yorkston’s home studio, in the sleepy Scottish fishing village of Cellardyke where he lives. Having laid down hours of music he called on long-time collaborator and producer David Wrench (Four Tet, FKA Twigs, David Byrne) to help shape the 12-track release. The result is an immensely personal collection of not only songs but 3 spoken-word-pieces, uniting family and friends, past and present.

There is beautiful, inspired undertones of instrumentation throughout The Route to The Harmonium. Layers of Celtic sounds trickle in wonder; echoing times, sounds and imagery of rain that are a constant source of brewing atmosphere. “The Irish Wars of Independence” is the first spoken word triumph that sees the singer fully at ease in his storytelling recite. In this instance he goes between spoken word and singing, as uplifting finger picking and inspired organs hold up Yorkston’s fragile voice.


Another constant that effortlessly finds its place on this record is the trumpet. On “Like Bees to Foxglove” the song moves boldly into the realms of jazz as Yorkston touches on themes of addiction. Lead single “My Mouth Ain’t No Bible” is an intense journey of pounding rhythms and soundscapes that chaotically swirl, while giving a real insight into Yorkston’s lyrical expression: “I’ve got all the skills and none of the direction, I’m spare hand, a hired hand, a deck hand, hey, I got sent this by them to do that, do you wanna, do you wanna, do you wanna be involved ahaha. Well bless my soul and more power to you. I’m travelling first class now but there’s lipstick on my coffee cup and it’s not my colour."

Other than haunting piano ballad “Villages I Have Know My Entire Life”, Yorkston doesn’t stray far from his finger-picking cocoon. All spoken word tracks are ironically heavier than his singing tracks, for which he relies on similar soundscapes and trumpet interludes to bind the songs together. That said, these soundscapes are the epitome of classic folk styles, and The Route To The Harmonium proves Yorkston is still one the greats in this field.

Release: 22nd February 2019, Domino Recording Co


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