James Yorkston – I Was A Cat From A Book (Domino, August 2012)
By Clare Lowe
I Was A Cat From A Book is James Yorkston‘s fifth offering on the Domino imprint and the Fence collective member is sticking to his existing formula of emotive lyrics and well-crafted songs.
The record plays like an outpouring of emotions, reflecting what Yorkston went through when his young daughter was taken seriously ill in 2010. It’s a misleading and lighthearted fantasy title, taken from something his child spoke of after waking from a dream, but this album is far from whimsical. The vulnerability in these tracks cuts through in irrepressible fashion. The ups and downs of what was clearly a painful time is evident, whether it be via sublime delicate folk, or hyperactive, upbeat and defiant rock.
Despite its personal intimacy, the subject matter isn’t exclusive to Yorkston’s pain. The record is easy to identify with, the main themes surrounding mortality, depression and the kind of human drama applicable to anybody who would listen.
The opening song ‘Catch’ is a gentle melodic track using vibraphone, bass, strings and piano, with poetic lyrics that muddle through the music. ‘Just As Scared’, a duet with Jill O’Sullivan, is beautifully crafted and their voices meld together to make the refrain “You really got a hold on me” haunting and memorable. The rousing, screeching strings of ‘ I Can Take This’ create an almost jarring sound, an anthem of angst, serving as the perfect ending to the album.
I Was A Cat From A Book has some innovative and interesting arrangements and, although it isn’t the most original folk singer/songwriter LP, the honesty displayed in the lyrics and musicianship offers a universal quality that will prove timeless.