When Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor meets soothing Fifer folk music, magic happens.
James Yorkston’s latest, beautiful LP, produced by Taylor, is packed with humble stories about life, love and loss, like ‘Broken Wave’, a song about friend and musician Doogie Paul, who died in 2012. It’s heart wrenching, but utterly breath taking.
Yorkston is a storyteller and throughout this set his tales are wrapped up in warm violin, rounded double bass, a tinkling of piano and even a little steel drum. Fence veterans KT Tunstall and Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) also collaborate, bringing with them rich harmonies and a personality that makes this album something different to his others.
It’s sometimes a little scratchy around the edges, but mostly honest, tender and wonderful.
Words: Gemma Hampson
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Art Of Noise Interview: James Yorkston On His New Album’s Cover
Just looking at your porcelain dish. What is ‘Cellardyke’? Is it a place? A room? Or a girl that likes rooms… and girls?
Cellardyke is where I live. It’s a small fishing village, it’s next to Anstruther and are almost joined. Kind of like Brighton and Hove are. It was famous eight or nine years ago when someone found a dead cormorant, which triggered a bird flu worry.
Is this the first bird you’ve had on your album covers?
On (2006 album) ‘The Year Of The Leopard’ there was a cat with wings made of eyes. There were birds on that one as well. I know that because a young lady came to one of my shows and she’d had the birds tattooed on her arm.
And on your 2008 album, ‘When The Haar Rolls In’, you have a cat?
Cat? Ahhh! That’s Beryl. She died just as we were making the artwork. So we decided to put Beryl just on the crest of the ship.
I’m just going to put this out there: your bird looks suspicious.
He does look suspicious. To me he looks like he’s wearing a false beak. And he’s wearing skis. Which suggests to me that he’s been up to something and it’s in disguise. Maybe someone had suggested to him that he was about to be on my album cover and he thought to himself, ‘Oh right, I better dress myself up a wee bit here’? Or maybe he’s in trouble with the law? Maybe he’s got a family in another bush somewhere else but doesn’t want them to recognise him?
A cuckolded cuckoo?
‘Is that Marvin?’ ‘No, silly! Marvin never wore skis!’
I couldn't fail to notice your small octopus in the green sea.
Yes, a small octopus. Well, when we were running through the design my wee girl ran into the room and said, ‘What are you doing, dada?’ and I said, ‘I’m working with the artwork girl. Is there anything you’d like on there?’ She said: ‘Put an octopus on there!’ However, if you wanted you could say that it’s a metaphor for the ruling classes, showing how they have a tentacle in every pie, meaning that it’s impossible for them not to constantly improve their wealth and further keep the proletariat downtrodden. You can say that, if you like.
A slippery lord of entitlement! Just next to him there appears to be a fish with a human face – or is that a mermaid?
It’s another reference. We live by the sea. Quite often when there is a storm here you may see a fish thrown up from the sea, just lying by the harbour. The other day there was a minnow, in fact, thrown far past the harbour, nearly by the gym. Just a fish, lying there. But, you know, I don't like the green sea on the cover. I suppose it’s a childish representation. You couldn’t use the album cover as a map.
No, but it certainly paints a bustling picture.
Yes. With my guitar, signifying that I’m a musician, with my two children running towards it! And Beryl, there with her ladder, ready to return to Heaven to hang out with her cat friends when she’s ready.
Wow! That’s Beryl again? She really gets a really good innings on your album covers.
Well, you know (laughs), you’ve got to take your inspiration where you can get it.
Indeed. But how many more cats do you have in your life? If they are all going to get as much visual love as Beryl you are going to have keep knocking out a lot of albums.
Well, currently there are none. They come and go. There have been two more in the last few years, but they both lost fights with vehicles. We live in a very peaceful area but there is a road that people come careering down. SPLAT!
Are you sure these deaths haven’t been frantic suicide bids after they realised the pressure of living beneath your infamous adoration of Beryl?
They could be. They could be trying to figure out how on Earth they too can get themselves on one of my sleeves. This is their last desperate bid to achieve that aim.
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Art Of Noise Interview: Matthew Bennett
Related: James Yorkston reviews the singles