Music: James Yorkston, The Junction 2
Abby Jitendra falls for Yorkston and his retrospective new tour.
by Abby Jitendra
Thursday 24th May 2012, 22:14 BST
James Yorkston is a charming man, even in a baseball cap. He stands a mighty figure; alone in the centre of the vast stage of the Junction 2 with just a guitar. In between songs he recounts tales of unbearable train passengers he unwittingly (actually, very wittingly) attacks, punctuated with droll chuckles. And by the end of his set, everyone’s laughing with him.
Yorkston’s latest tour isn’t to promote his new album, however; it’s to celebrate the re-issue of the album that made him famous ten years ago, the mighty Moving Up Country and its melancholy, weary, often wicked lyrics. The whole album is played through, the fast songs made mellow and soft, the slow ones heavy with emotion. He sings the stunning ‘Tender to the Blues’ with a weary, time-worn familiarity, remarking that it feels strange playing such old songs. His slow Scottish drawl dances through the lyrics of ‘Cheating the Game’ which he dedicates to “wee fat granny”. His voice really is incredible; warm, deep, rich with memory and experience, and it’s a pleasure to be able to hear it in such an intimate venue.
Six full-length albums after Moving Up Country, it’s clear to see how much Yorkston has progressed. In the closing minutes of his set, he excitedly explains that he’ll play a few songs from his new album. He seems to liven up, lo eager to show us what he is capable of now. Launching into a fast, loud, but excellently arranged track, he laughs through the words. It must be strange, for a singer who has progressed creatively, to re-visit material so far removed from their current context. Now a 40-year-old, and married with children, Yorkston sounds old singing his older stuff.
Older, but wiser, obviously. Wise and confident enough to end his set not with a song, but with a story he wrote, about chicken-stealing related misdemeanours in his home town. Like I said, everyone was laughing.