Having recently spent time in Cellardyke, the small coastal village in the East Neuk of Fife that James Yorkston and his latest album call home, the beauty of his work makes a little more sense. A rich tapestry of layers that at times dovetail seamlessly and at others crash together with abandon, you can hear the North Sea as it laps and weathers Scotland’s coast while Yorkston’s characters go about their business dotted around a landscape which is at turns both breathtaking and brutal.
Yorkston’s music gives posterity to this dichotomy. On single and album standout ‘My Mouth Ain’t No Bible’, for example, Yorkston seems to loom above life as it goes on, reflecting on the passing of time, the ebb and flow of creativity and the artist’s own triumphs and regrets. It builds with detached menace as the narrator wryly observes the futile human anxieties of the people below, all the while underpinned by a pummelling wall of snares and strings. In its calmer moments, the album conjures up sun-dappled dawns and nights with edges blurred by drink. ‘The Villages I Have Known My Entire Life’ and ‘Oh Me Oh My’, amongst others, are beautiful photographs of love and friendship now gone. The full kaleidoscope of life is here and it is a rich experience for it.
After almost two decades of releasing albums I’m not sure Yorkston would crave the fame afforded to lesser folk talents who have achieved global success. He should, however, be in a position to shun it.