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The Year of the Leopard

James Yorkston

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Album Review

With help from part of the Talk Talk clan, producer Paul Webb and engineer Phill Brown, former hard rocker from Fife James Yorkston's third full-length album is easily his warmest and most accessible folk offering. Gently rolling opener "Summer Song" is nearly a blueprint of the album as a whole; Yorkston harmonizes dolefully for three-quarters of the track with spare backing, and then a clarinet and double bass wall infuses warmth and makes the world well. Gorgeous standout "Steady as She Goes" picks up right where the opener leaves off, with Yorkston alternating between a confessional talky Arab Strap voice and a falsetto that drifts evocatively around strings, mandolins, a weepy harmonica, and train-like brushed drums. He returns to spoken word delivery with the slow-burning and spooky "The Brussels Rambler" and the autobiographical "Woozy with Cider," where he wonders aloud if his music will eventually make him rich over an organic pastiche reminiscent of Steve Reich. The influence and hands of Webb and Brown are omnipresent, particularly in the spare plucking of "Orgiva Song," which suggests the meeting place of Bert Jansch and Mark Hollis. Just as he brought an experimental, modern touch to his collaborative work with Beth Gibbons, Webb helps Yorkston here to straddle multiple genres, from indie rock to introspective jazz all in a base of traditional acoustic folk. The album is a brittle, introspective affair, but it's brimming with perfectly timed moments of emotional release, beautiful atmosphere courtesy of Webb's masterful oversight, expert folk playing, and Yorkston's rich voice, poetic delivery, and unerring songwriting. It's simultaneously cool yet soul-revealing, sparse yet full, experimental yet grounded, and mournful yet uplifting. The Year of the Leopard is James Yorkston at his very best.

Biography

Born: 1971 in Kingsbarns, Fife, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

James Yorkston was born in Kingsbarns, a small village in Fife, Scotland. At the age of eight, he started playing music and fell in love with the craft. At 17, he moved from Fife to the larger city of Edinburgh with his girlfriend. It was at that time that he became involved with a garage rock and punk band called Huckleberry, with Yorkston as the group's bass player. In 1996, he performed his first acoustic show after a friend working in a record shop picked Yorkston as an opening act for Bert Jansch...
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The Year of the Leopard, James Yorkston
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