Tuesday, 31 July 2012

reviews: james yorkston, tamara schlesinger, huw m

James Yorkston - I Was a Cat From a Book (*****)

Even if you didn’t know its background, I Was a Cat… is an emotionally powerful listen. With context, it near overwhelms: in 2010, James Yorkston’s daughter fell seriously ill, sidelining his musical commitments while he focussed all energies on her recovery. Folk is one of those genres where autobiography is presumed to inform a songwriter’s music in an especially direct manner, and certainly it’s impossible to hear the urgent I Can Take All This or the solemnly candid The Fire & The Flames ('all that I want is for you to be well my love') without the connection producing goose-bumps. But dwelling only on personal circumstances results in an unnecessarily reductive assessment of this remarkable album – Yorkston’s best yet, we’d venture. Further highpoints include Just as Scared’s stunning duet with Jill O’Sullivan, and the agitated, breathless Border Song, which underscore the record’s incisive beauty and fiery passion respectively.  

Out 13th August

Tamara Schlesinger - The Procession (***)
In 6 Day Riot, Tamara Schlesinger’s compositions come wrapped in tiers of warm instrumentation, generating a welcoming, communal atmosphere. Solo debut The Procession is a comparatively stark and intimate offering, her music stripped back to its bones. Her voice is always at the fore, often providing both lead melody and a looped, layered a capella bedrock – an increasingly familiar dynamic, but one with mileage yet.

Initially, the stylistic shift produces a curiously aloof tone, but that’s not to paint it as dour: repeat listens bring its carefree undertow into focus, with the appeal of gibbering opener Yai Yai, and the delicate, dancing So Long particularly pronounced. There’s a hint of a tantalising middle ground waiting to be seized – a balance between her erstwhile full-band aesthetic and this crystalline left turn – but any urge to reconcile them at this juncture is neutralised by the album’s consistency and clarity of vision.

Out 6th August

Huw M - Gathering Dusk (***)

On debut Os Mewn Swn, Huw M sung entirely in Welsh, letting the music do the talking for those of us not fluent in the language (we can assume the majority of those reading aren’t). It might have been nice to maintain this approach on bilingual follow-up Gathering Dusk: as before, when he phlegmatically coos in Cymraeg, all melts together into gooey, sunny loveliness; when he switches to English, asinine couplets occassionally stick in the throat (Hide Behind You, hang thy head).

Elsewhere, folk-pop melodies skirt dangerously close to Mraz-ish empty whimsy, but successfully retain their compsure: Chwyldro Tawel, Ystafellowedd Gwag and For While I Wait For You To Sleep warrant particular praise, the former evocatively melancholic, the second proffering fluttering, gossamer guitar work, and the closing lullaby boosted by Bethan Reynolds’ gentle harmonies. A step sideways rather than forward perhaps, but a nicely judged one.

Out today 

No comments:

Post a Comment