Thursday, August 20, 2009

Folk Songs, Family Players and Folly

A new James Yorkston album came out last week. “Folk Songs” is played by James Yorkston and The Big Eyes Family Players (“I didn’t want to work with my usual band The Athletes but there’s no slur there – I Just fancied trying something different”) and is a collection of 11 traditional folk songs discovered by James in their 60s folk revivals versions by artists such as Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins or by more recent folkies like Nic Jones. A JY release is always something to get excited about. But let’s get the truly exciting bit out of the way first shall we?

Yes that’s me on the sleeve! Right there between Dave Holden and Nicki Refstrup Bladt. I’d talked about this in June: anyone who ordered the special edition of this album before 6 July got a credit on the album too. As well as the very handsome limited edition 2 x CD, 1 x DVD and poster version of “Folk Songs”. The credit is a small thing (and it is very small print) but it’s given me no end of joy since it arrived in the post last week.

Listening to “Folk Songs” the first thing is notice is the (subtle) differences to earlier JY albums. Firstly the lyrical content: where James tends to be more allusive, these songs are more direct. Where James often writes vignettes about those seemingly unimportant domestic incidents or situations that can make or break a relationship, these songs are longer narratives or deal with stock characters from the folk canon (poachers in “Thorneymoor Woods”, hunters and hares in “Hills of Greenmoor”). And then there is the playing: on some songs (but not all) the instrumentation and style can sound more traditional – whistles, mournful fiddle, chiming harp. On first listen I missed (or thought I did) the swoon and swell of those earlier albums and the Athletes full band treatment. But even on second listen some of that swoon is definitely there. And by the third listen what I thought of as subtle differences are long gone. This is a great JY album full stop and definitely worthy of your record dollars. Even if I’m biased by having my name on it.

And if the release alone is not enough, James and the Big Eyes Family Players are touring the UK in October to play the record including a (not-to-be-missed) date at Night & Day in Manchester on 24th. Buy tickets for that date here.
15th - Aberdeen - The Tunnels
16th - Glasgow - The Arches
18th - Fife - Cupar Arts Festival
19th - Edinburgh - Bongo Club
21st - Liverpool - The Kazimier
22nd - Leeds - The Faversham *
23rd - York - Fibbers
24th - Manchester - Night & Day Cafe
25th - Bristol - The Fleece
26th - Clwb Ifor Bach
31st - Fence Halloween Party (Secret Locations Around Anstruther!)
5th - Reading - South Street Arts Centre
7th - London - Tabernacle *
9th - Brighton - Hanbury Ballroom
All shows with support from Mary Hampton and David A Jaycock (except Fife w/ Iain Macauley Trio)
* With Alisdair Roberts

James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players
Folk Songs [BUY]

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