Album Reviews

James Yorkston – When The Haar Rolls In

(Domino) UK release date: 1 September 2008

James Yorkston - When The Haar Rolls In The beauty of James Yorkston is that you never get bored. He’s like the interesting old gent sitting in the bus shelter that you miss your bus for. You can sit, listen and admire.

When the Haar Rolls in is full of tales set to endearing melodies and pretty instrumentation: magical strings, squeezebox, even harpsichord. It paints a picture of sitting at the window of a coastal cottage, cup of tea, woolly jumper and the wind and rain lashing at the windows. It is comfortable, dramatic, breath-taking and content. The Fence Collective original from the label’s east Scottish home is still as raw as ever, mixing art and folk to create a personal and sweet album. It’s gem after gem.

Tortoise Regrets Hare is like watching a child win an egg and spoon race. You feel so proud. Yorkston’s understated, soft and unaffected vocals make for a great story-teller. His winding melodies drawing from his fellow folkies and label mates, your King Creosotes and your Beta Bands, but with a hint of other experimental artists. Temptation has an air of stripped down Radiohead, accompanied by a manic guitar and piano and some eerie strings.

Title track When the Haar Rolls In raises Yorkston’s vocals to a close and intimate level. You can almost hear him thinking – and it makes you listen. You can clearly hear about the cat in his garden that he wants to see do a jig, the sunken city that came alive with fireworks, the empty jar of jam. Its ramshackle instrumental ‘chorus’ is like the stormy north sea waves crashing onto the serene and untouched shore. Beautiful.

Yorkston is reunited with his Athletes for this masterpiece – a collection of some great and hugely talented folk musicians – as well as legends Norma and Mike Waterson, Marry Gilhooly and Olly Knight. It’s definitely not a case of too many cooks. Every track on Haar is layered with immense talent, tradition and emotion.

When you think it couldn’t get much better, a sudden burst of woody double bass comes through, a lyric brings a tear to your eye. or you hear a whiff of a Spanish mandolin accompanied by the voice of an angel, like in Would You Have Me Born With Wooden Eyes, a title that sets the scene for something special.

There is some superb folk in this day and age, sitting comfortably among the guitar heroes with their regional accents, but this album arguably tops them all. If your record collection features the likes of King Creosote, Beirut, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes or if you still hanker after a new Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson or Nick Drake, or even if you listen to Metallica and DJ whatshisface, you should hear When the Haar Rolls in. You’ll never be the same again.

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More on James Yorkston
James Yorkston, Nina Persson & The Second Hand Orchestra – The Great White Sea Eagle
Yorkston/ Thorne/ Khan – Everything Sacred
James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society
James Yorkston – I Was A Cat From A Book
James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players – Folk Songs