January 21, 2004

James Yorkston & The Athletes "Someplace Simple"

It's hard not to like James Yorkston. He has released some wonderfully beautiful records over the past two years, all of which blend traditional folk music with swatches of electronica and dark atmosphere. Though his debut album Moving Up Country was a nice slice of modern folk, Yorkston really excells in small doses--witness his 10" singles, which offer up one long song and an electronica remix on the flipside.

Someplace Simple arrives in advance of a new album due this spring, and it finds Yorkston holding steady to the things that made his previous records excellent. Yorkston sings with a soft, gentle croon, one that's naturally a magnet for Nick Drake comparisons, and the songs on here are no exception. "Someplace Special" is a sleepy-headed song, with Yorkston accompanied with banjo, accordian and backing vocals. His drowsy, narcotic-style singing is ace, drawing you into his sonambulistic song.

I'm really most fond of the B-sides. "Scarecrow" is more of the same, and the last three songs, "Rosemary Lane," "False True Love" and "In Dessexshire As It Befel," Yorkston and company are all traditional folk songs, rearranged in Yorkston's style. It's nice to hear him tackle traditional music; as he's proven himself capable of writing excellent songs, it's good to see that he is also good at the classics.

Someplace Simple is a small, brief affair that really whets the appetite for his new album. From the sounds of the songs on this little record, that album really should be worth waiting for. A nicer little record I couldn't ask for.

--Joseph Kyle

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