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James Yorkston ≈ I Was A Cat From A Book (2012)

 James Yorkston ≈ I Was A Cat From A Book (2012)

James Yorkston I Was A Cat From A Book
Born: 1971
Location: Kingsbarns, Fife, Scotland
Album release: August 21, 2012
Record Label: Domino
Duration:     38:28
01. Catch     (3:34)
02. Kath With Rhodes     (4:17)
03. Border Song     (2:37)
04. This Line Says     (4:00)
05. Just As Scared     (3:20)
06. Sometimes The Act Of Giving Love     (3:03)
07. The Fire & The Flames     (5:15)
08. A Short Blues     (3:37)
09. Spanish Ants     (2:54)
10. Two     (2:47)
11. I Can Take All This     (3:04)
Instruments: Guitar, banjo, bouzouki, concertina
Website: http://www.jamesyorkston.co.uk/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/jamesyorkston
Editorial Reviews:
¤  2012 album from the British singer/songwriter. His first album since 2008's When The Haar Rolls In, I Was A Cat From A Book finds James playing with a new band comprised of members of Lamb & The Cinematic Orchestra alongside old friends. The album was produced by James Yorkston and Dave Wrench and mostly recorded live during 5 wintry days in Bryn Derwen Studios, North Wales. It's an album full of energy and great musicianship, and contains James' strongest and most bewildering set of songs yet.
¤  His first album since 2008's When The Haar Rolls In, I Was A Cat From A Book finds James playing with a new band comprised of members of Lamb & The Cinematic Orchestra alongside old friends.  The album was produced by James Yorkston and Dave Wrench and mostly recorded live during 5 wintry days in Bryn Derwen Studios, North Wales. It's an album full of energy and great musicianship, and contains James' strongest and most bewildering set of songs yet.
¤  Since the release of When The Haar Rolls In, James has published a book (It’s Lovely To Be Here), collaborated with The Big Eyes Family Players on Folk Songs & seen the 10 year anniversary release of Moving Up Country, his landmark debut album
I Was A Cat From A Book will be available on CD, 2 x 10” vinyl (exclusively featuring 2 extra tracks ‘Thar She Blows’ and ‘Black Horse White’) and digitally.  There is also a spectacular Box Set version, containing 2 x 10" gatefold vinyl with download, the CD of the album, a DVD of James’ performance at the Union Chapel in 2011, a remix album by David 'A' Jaycock,  printed backgammon pieces and dice to be played on the LP gatefold and  3  badges.  
¤  "Having successfully tackled an undeniably challenging and personal subject matter, musically I Was a Cat from a Book doesn’t make any notable change in direction. This is James Yorkston doing what James Yorkston does best, and there’s no need for him to meddle with a winning concoction. However, there are moments of the unexpected; namely on the aforementioned ‘Just as Scared’, which strangely echoes the vocal juxtapositions of The Moldy Peaches before launching into a sumptuous chorus with guest vocalist Jill O’Sullivan. Elsewhere Kathryn Williams lends a hand alongside various members of Lamb and the Cinematic Orchestra.
¤  All things considered, that I Was a Cat from a Book doesn’t progress technically is of no consequence. Yorkston is already considered a treasure by fans of the Fence collective, and I Was a Cat from a Book proves he’s long overdue national recognition."
Review by James Wilkinson  (Editor rating: ****)
¤  Four years on from When the Haar Rolls In -- the East Fife, Scotland-born artist’s previous album of self-penned material -- I Was a Cat from a Book finds the creative and ever exploratory James Yorkston in pensive mood following his young daughter’s recovery from a serious illness. Named after her description of a vivid dream, it contains some of Yorkston’s most honest and soul-searching lyrics to date and directly follows the ten-year anniversary of his acclaimed debut, 2002’s Moving Up Country. While the journey from Country to Haar saw him develop from a tentative but assured bedsit romantic to the accomplished Dylanesque lyricist of the latter album’s title track, here it’s Yorkston’s controlled and masterful lightness of touch which helps him deal with topics that could have felt overly intense in the hands of others. Recorded -- like each of his previous long-players -- at the familiar Bryn Derwen Studios, his North Wales studio of choice, on this release he is joined by a new cast of musicians including Lamb’s Jon Thorne on double-bass and the Cinematic Orchestra’s Luke Flowers on drums. When these two players effortlessly lock in with John Ellis’ piano on the tender opener “Catch,” it’s clear that the trio are more than comfortable in each other’s company. There’s a timeless quality to the instrumental breaks of this track in particular that recalls Island Records’ folk-meets-jazz albums of the early ‘70s such as Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. However, by the time you’ve heard the brooding Kathryn Williams collaboration -- the functionally titled “Kath with Rhodes” -- and the breakneck-speed “Border Song” -- it’s also clear that you're listening to an artist who is willing to take risks. There’s a thread of anger that runs through these songs, but this is curtailed and tempered by the many lyrical declarations of fear that arise on tracks such as the Jill O’Sullivan duet “Just as Scared” and the understandably claustrophobic “The Fire and the Flames.” In turn, these ruminations are never overbearing for the listener, as even the gentle, seemingly self-analytical gem “A Short Blues” is instilled with imagery of hope and “nothing but the sun.” Ultimately, in I Was a Cat from a Book, Yorkston has delivered a measured, wise, and life-affirming record, which has the power to inspire.  (Allmusic.com)
By Graeme Thomson  (Editor rating: 8/10)
¤  Alt.folkie calms down, but still delivers some classics...
¤  Since the release of his debut album, Moving Up Country, 10 years ago, each new release from James Yorkston has featured only the most finely nuanced stylistic variations. The Fifer and erstwhile member of the Fence Collective has cornered the (small, organic) market in rueful, ale-stained poetry, lovingly muttered over folkish tunes that roll and creak like some old galleon.
At first hearing, his first album of new material since When The Haar Rolls In (2008) seems reluctant to wander far from familiar terrain. Opener “Catch” is archetypal: the overlapping tumble of words, the gently unravelling melody, the warm, mossy mix of vibraphone, bass and strings, the rippling piano, redolent of Van Morrison’s Avalonian ’80s recordings. All are quintessentially Yorkston.
¤  Yet delve deeper and there is change, and perhaps progress. For a start his semi-regular band The Athletes have scattered (it’s Olympic year, after all), replaced by a new cast of collaborators. The change in personnel has encouraged a shift in musical priorities. Where Yorkston’s last album was precisely drawn, the follow-up is looser and less beholden to strict arrangements, and more willing to let the musicians dictate the pace. It’s a fair exchange.
¤  If there’s nothing here as epic and truly breath-snaring as the title track on When The Haar Rolls In – though “Catch” and the beautifully poised “Sometimes The Act Of Giving Love” come close – within Yorkston’s established parameters I Was A Cat From A Book roams further than perhaps any of his previous records. It’s an album of gentle extremes, in both mood and style. On “The Fire And The Flames”, Jon Thorne’s double bass rumbles and saws but everything else is encased in whispers, Yorkston’s voice recalling Thom Yorke in its quavering intensity. It’s both unsettling and immensely powerful. “This Line Says” is another slow crawl, sinister and vaguely malevolent, stitched together with violas and violins. Only rarely in the past has Yorkston summoned up such dark drama. In contrast, elsewhere he’s at his most playful and happily abandoned. “Border Song” is positively frantic, a headlong rush into adventure set to drunken woodwind, skipping piano and skittish drums. “Just As Scared”, a nimble little duet with Jill O’Sullivan, is wonderfully light on its toes, with a hint of The Lovin’ Spoonful at their most carefree in the breezy clarinet and bobbing rhythm. “Spanish Ants”, meanwhile, is as entertaining as it is impenetrable.
¤  Never the most versatile singer, Yorkston frames his voice with great ingenuity throughout, skilfully weaving together contrasting textures. On “Kath With Rhodes” (one of those bluntly literal titles: it features Kathryn Williams and a Fender Rhodes), violin, clarinet and harmonium mingle with soft-pedalling electronica to create a shuffling, insistent soundscape for his typically engaging words. Yorkston has become a truly masterful lyricist, forever suggesting intimacy and revelation through forensic detail while leaving the wider picture nicely fuzzy. When he does finally opt for directness, it’s to address the fearful spectre of illness striking far too close to home on “A Short Blues”, a devastatingly simple lament at unflinching circumstances. “I hear that a dear old friend has passed/Taken by the same thing that has its claws in you/But I remember times when we felt nothing but the sun upon us”.
¤  On the closing “I Can Take All This”, a kind of folk-punk valediction which is both defiant and defeated, Yorkston sings of “feeling very mortal right now”. He sounds it, too – but thrillingly so. Although I Was A Cat From A Book may find him loosening his belt ever so slightly, when it comes to weaving frailty and truth into a warmly affirming musical tapestry, Britain’s premier Peat poet is sticking firmly to his guns.
¤  James Yorkston
Why go for a looser approach this time?
¤  In the past I’ve spent a long, long time on arrangements, but I’ve learned that more relaxed sounds can be as rewarding. I relied a lot on the ingenuity of the musicians.
How did you pick the musicians?
¤  Some of The Athletes were too ill to play. I’d fallen out with some of the others, so I needed another band. I’d done some sessions with Jon Thorne, the bass player, and he recommended Luke Flowers and John Ellis. I hadn’t even met them before we arrived at the studio! It was a roll of the die, but I knew the songs were strong.
Where did the album title spring from?
¤  From my little girl. She comes through in the morning and says, “What did you dream about?” So I make something up: “I dreamt I was hungry.
¤  I had to go downstairs, and when I got there the room was full of satsumas.” Then I ask what she dreamed about. She says, “I was a cat in a book”, and I have to guess what cat she was. I like it.
¤  It has meaning.
Fortaken: http://www.uncut.co.uk/
By Chris White | 13 August 2012  (Rating: ***½) - http://www.musicomh.com/
¤  Moving Up Country - 2002, Domino Records
¤  Just Beyond the River - 2004, Domino Records – UK #155
¤  The Year of the Leopard' - 2006, Domino Records
¤  Live at Le Poisson Mouillé - 2006, Self released, concert only release.
¤  Roaring the Gospel - 2007, Domino Records compilation of B-sides, etc.
¤  'Lang Cat, Crooked Cat, Spider Cat - 2007, Instrumental release for Fence Records.
¤  30 - 2004, Fence Records release - one 30 minute track
¤  When the Haar Rolls In - 2008, Domino Records – UK #178
¤  Folk Songs - 2009, Domino Records, Traditionals.
¤  I Was A Cat From A Book - 2012, Domino Records

James Yorkston ≈ I Was A Cat From A Book (2012)




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