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James Yorkston And The Athletes

Fence Club 6@The Caves, Edinburgh
4 stars
There’s something wonderfully anomalous about hearing a 1980s electro-pop compilation being played after an evening of acoustically inclined singer/songwriters with folk leanings. Such are the pick and mix aesthetics of the occasional club nights organised by the Anstruther-based Fence Collective, whose attempts to create a cosy village hall vibe in the heart of the city are undermined slightly by the sheer sardine-like popularity of the events.

A bigger venue is definitely required for James Yorkston, who headlines this latest outing on the back of his When The Haar Rolls In album with a full set of Athletes onstage. As on record, the arrangements of accordion, fiddle, clarinet and upright bass add texture and weight to Yorkston’s doleful baritone and insistently picked guitar. Not that what sound like a tumble of free-associative confessionals crafted into first person short stories can’t survive on their own. Yorkston is a master of transcending melancholy into intimacy, and it’s only the songs beauty and Yorkston’s quiet charisma that manages to cut through the uncomfortable environment and low-key babble at the back of the room.

Despite the baroque stylings, there’s nothing fey about Yorkston’s full-blooded romanticism. Not even when, for his epic version of Lal Waterson’s Midnight Feast, The Athletes are joined onstage by Fence label boss King Creosote and Fence Club promoter The Pictish Trail. The pair somewhat comically clutch lyric sheets in a bold attempt to replicate Lal and Norma Waterson’s contribution to Yorkston’s recorded version. “The Francie and Josie of the Scottish folk scene” is how Yorkston puts it. An encore of Sweet Jesus, then it’s Tubeway Army’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric all the way.

The Herald, September 19th 2008

ends

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