Roaring The Gospel
The Stones once sang that you can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need. But such sentiments were written in the days before globalisation and rampant consumerism. These days you can you usually get what you want even if it's not strictly what you need. Our local high street doesn't need a new branch of Subway, JJB Sports or Nandos but that's what we're going to get because apparently that's what the punters want. In 2007 when everyone seems to have a voracious appetite for musical consumption one thing we definitely don't need is another singer-songwriter out of the folky troubadour mold. Another one just isn't needed. There's plenty to cater for our needs already. Where-ever one stands on the spectrum it seems your needs are catered for; from the Magic FM listening tweeness of the likes of James Blunts to the indie kid loving Bright Eyes of this world. So we don't strictly need James Yorkston but he is what we should want. When it comes to sorting the musical wheat from the chaff this boy would be top of the pile ready to be sacked up and sent to the mill.
Where many of these troubadours subscribe to the notion that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' and make little effort to disguise the fact that they have just re-hashed the winning formulas tabulated by the likes of Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young, 'Roaring the Gospel' shows that Yorkston’s influences are wider and deeper than that. Yorkston is a protege of Bert Jansch and I'd hazard a guess that in addition he is not only familiar with Dylan’s back pages but also knows every nook and cranny of such albums as Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Love’s Forever Changes and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Deja Vu. 'Roaring the Gospel', his fourth album, cherry picks some of the finer moments from his heros and blends them together to tasty effect. Add to this mixture lyrics and a voice that seeps celtic folk traditions and the brew is quite potent indeed. It might not be entirely groundbreaking but it is an approach that provides Yorkston’s tunes with a character and identity which is very much distinct from his contemporaries.
It is not just the range of influences that ensures Yorkston is sacked up as wheat rather than discarded as chaff; it is also his refusal to follow the route of many of his competitors who feel the need to return to a back to basics style orthodoxy of 'man with guitar recording songs in the solace of his room.' As a result he has avoided the pitfalls of introspection and melancholy which some manage to make appealing but most don't. The range of instruments utilised in the pursuit of a sound that is warm, rich and charming is both daring and dizzying. Yorkston adds colour to his tunes with the odd unexpected flourish. On 'The Lang Toun' the humming presence of bagpipes is inspired. Accordions don't often make an appearance in modern music but add a certain panache to 'Sleep is the Jewel.' And when was the last time you heard an oboe used in tandem with a banjo, let alone to used to such magical effect as on 'Seven Sirens'?
I hope James Yorkston has sharp elbows because he really needs to be pushing his way to the front or he'll be lost and dismissed amongst the crowd of all the other singer-songwriting troubadours we don't need.
16th Jun 2007 - Tumblr3.5
Conway Hall, London
Year Of The Leopard
Flick The V's
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