For any Living Tradition
reader who may not yet be aware of Fife-based songwriter James Yorkston,
it will help if you are to learn of the now legendary tale that has enabled
him to be in the position of releasing his remarkable second album, Just
Beyond The River.
After leaving his bass player position in a garage punk band, he opted
for the acoustic guitar, learned a few chords and began writing and recording
songs with some friends from the truly inspirational Fence Collective
label. One of these songs became his first single, Moving up Country.
James sent the demo to John Peel (like every musician starting out should
do) he played it, and the next thing he knew he was asked to sign with
a small independent label who managed to secure him a support slot for
an entire John Martyn tour. And the rest, well, is history.
Just Beyond The River is the follow up to 2002's debut, Moving Up Country,
an extremely accomplished record and certainly one of my favourites of
the last couple of years. The songs on the new album have a darker edge
to them than previously, however they remain as intriguing as ever. The
warmth in Yorkston's simple vocal fills the music with a genuine soul
that is often lacking in many contemporary songwriters tunes, and his
lyrics leave you with the feeling that he is talking to you face to face
in the living room of your own home. The Athletes are the excellent backing
band, whose delicate playing glides along beautifully throughout the album.
Their choice of instruments includes a mixture of fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin
It's difficult to pick standout tracks when all are so strong, however
'Surf Song' and 'Banjo #1, with its experimental John Cale style fiddle
solo, are already firmly implanted in the brain. Proving that his influences
spread far and wide, the album concludes with a rousing rendition of The
Snow It Melts The Soonest. Modelled on the Anne Briggs version, this is
one of two traditional tracks (the second being Edward) that make up this
If you're a fan of The Pentangle, Planxty or Nick Drake you should definitely
check this album out. All you need to do now is jump on the ship, sail
down the river, and discover the treasures that lie just beyond it.