James Yorkston review – riotous celebration of the modern troubadour

Union Chapel, London
Yorkston reunites with tour buddies Johnny Lynch and Dan Wilson for a night of perfect harmonies and easy banter – with a guest appearance from Jarvis Cocker

Self-anointed “bottom-rung songster” James Yorkston has had a vintage year, releasing a well-received debut from folk-fusion collaboration Yorkston Thorne Khan as well as his first novel, Three Claws. Nimbly picking and gently swaying through solo delights B’s Jig and Surf Song, Yorkston looks like a man enjoying his moment. But rather than hog the limelight, he chooses instead to reunite with old tour buddies Johnny “Pictish Trail” Lynch and Dan “Withered Hand” Wilson for a riotous celebration of the modern folk troubadour.

They take turns playing songs, sharing perfect harmonies and easy banter, their mutual appreciation bringing out the best in their varied styles. Wilson is the straight man to the comedic Lynch, his raspy passion tempered by the latter’s light touch and high, sweet voice, while between them sits Yorkston, rapt at the strident honesty of Cornflake and the hip hop-flecked Far Gone (Don’t Leave), both ecstatic observer and essential element.

There’s a surprise appearance by Jarvis Cocker – faltering through Lal Waterson’s The Scarecrow but peerless for an acoustic take on Pulp’s Babies and the unlikely confluence of the carol Little Donkey and Erasure’s Respect – but Yorkston remains the main event. The profound lyricism of Sweet Jesus and Red Fox is dazzling, the poignancy of Broken Wave (A Blues for Doogie) spine-tingling, as Yorkston truly comes into his own. Or, as he jokingly puts it: “It’s lovely to share the stage with you, Johnny, and it’s lovely to share the stage with you, Daniel. But the loveliest thing is sharing the stage with me. The star of the show.”


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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