Boomkat Product Review:
There certainly isn't a shortage of great folk music at the moment, only last week we were exposed again to the brilliance of Will Oldham and this week we have offerings from folk artists the world over (most notably from Finland) so is there still a place for James Yorkston? Since his debut album 'Moving up Country' he has been quietly standing up for good quality acoustic songwriting, and this latest full-length is his finest, most complete effort to date - Produced by Talk Talk's Paul Webb (aka Rustin Mann) who notably took Beth Gibbons vocals to places they had never before. The inclusion of horns and distant, muffled percussion, gives the tracks a new-found resonance and imbues Yorkston's simple, unashamedly gorgeous songs with a capacity to really breathe. 'Summer Song' slips us into the album quite beautifully, delivering a fine example of Yorkston's coy songwriting while elegantly dipping into Webb's production flourishes. Following on from this is former single 'Steady as She Goes', a clear highlight of the record and probably the most upbeat song - where most ignore a full, percussive sound in favour of simple guitar and vocals, this feels like Yorkston has a full band behind him. The midpoint of the record is heralded by the rather odd 'Woozy With Cider', a spoken word document of Scottish life backed by some dreamy bubbling electronics. Not what you would expect from Yorkston or particularly expect to hear on this album but it really breaks up the first and second half perfectly, giving a sense of purpose to the two acts. The second part peaks with 'The Brussels Rambler', a romantic and vaguely cinematic Gallic-folk influenced track replete with accordion, clarinet and nameless other unusual instruments. Yorkston's half-sung vocals could almost be mistaken for Smog's Bill Callaghan they manage to embody melancholy so effortlessly - and this in itself marks this album out from much of his recorded output to date. It won't jump out at you and you're not likely to encounter much hype, but 'The Year of the Leopard' is a simply beautiful album - and a highly recommended addition to this artists' already enviable cannon.