James Yorkston

James Yorkston (born James Patrick Yorkston Wright; 21 December 1971) is a Scottish folk musician, singer-songwriter and author.

James Yorkston
Yorkston in 2010
Background information
Birth nameJames Patrick Yorkston Wright[1]
Born21 December 1971[1]
Stratford-upon-Avon, England[1]
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, banjo, bouzouki, concertina
LabelsDomino Recording Company, Fence Records
Associated actsThe Fruit Tree Foundation

Music career

A native of Fife, James Yorkston was an integral early member of the Fence Collective whose reach across contemporary music continues to lengthen: King Creosote, The Aliens, KT Tunstall, The Beta Band and The Pictish Trail. Yorkston is primarily a singer-songwriter, although he also tackles a variety of traditional songs, learned from singers such as Anne Briggs, Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Lal Waterson, John Strachan and Adrian Crowley. His quoted main influences are Anne Briggs, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Michael Hurley, Can and the Malagasy D'Gary.[2]

Yorkston started out as bassist for punk band Miraclehead, which morphed into the band Huckleberry, who recorded a number of independently released records. Yorkston's solo career began when John Peel played a demo of his "Moving Up Country, Roaring the Gospel", proclaiming it had the "song title of the year, no doubt".[3] This led to Bad Jazz Records scrambling for Yorkston's details and releasing that track as Yorkston's debut 7" under the name "J. Wright Presents".[4]

By this time Yorkston had started to play solo gigs in Edinburgh, his debut supporting Bert Jansch in the Café Royal. Seeking more shows, Yorkston sent a copy of the single to John Martyn, asking him for a support slot on his forthcoming Edinburgh date, and Martyn responded by offering Yorkston all 27 dates on his UK and Ireland tour. While on this tour, Yorkston was seen by Laurence Bell of Domino Records, who was so impressed he had a recording contract sent to Yorkston's lawyer the following week.[5] Subsequently he signed to Domino Records, recording music with a number of friends and associates credited as The Athletes on his records. His debut album Moving Up Country, co-produced by Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins, became Rough Trade Record Shops Album of the Year for 2002.[6] In 2003 Yorkston played at the inaugural Green Man Festival.[7]

For Yorkston's second album, he asked Kieran Hebden of Four Tet on board as producer, and they made Just Beyond the River. This album was extremely well received all round. Pete Paphides of The Times wrote, "Yorkston has reached a state of grace that writers can spend forever trying to attain: songs that sound not so much written as carefully retrieved from your own subconscious, played with an intuition bordering on telepathy. What more could you ask for?" Yorkston's fan base continued to grow and he was offered tours with Beth Orton, David Gray, Tindersticks, Turin Brakes, Lambchop and Kathryn Williams, as well as a slot on the prestigious Accelerator tour of Sweden.

The follow-up, The Year of the Leopard, was produced by Rustin Man, who had recently worked with Beth Gibbons (lead singer with the band Portishead) on their Out of Season record. While promoting this, Yorkston was given the chance to play with Bert Jansch once more, this time in Paris. Yorkston also invited Martin Carthy to play and share a stage with him at London's Union Chapel on 24 May 2007. In 2007, Domino Records released Roaring the Gospel, a collection of unreleased songs, which led NME to say "Yorkston has talent as deep as a mine shaft".[8]

Yorkston was invited to work as Musical Director with Oliver Knight and the Waterson–Carthy clan for the BBC Electric Proms tribute to Lal Waterson. This was broadcast by the Mike Harding Show as well as by BBC Three. Alongside Waterson–Carthy, the acts involved included Alasdair Roberts, Kathryn Williams and Lisa Knapp. Yorkston's involvement with the Fence Collective continued: he has toured extensively with King Creosote and regularly contributed to the Fence Collective's Homegames mini-festivals featuring guest performances by artists such as The Concretes and Hot Chip. Yorkston also plays in the Fence Collective bands The 3 Craws, Pictish Trail and U.N.P.O.C..

His fifth album, When the Haar Rolls In, was released through Domino Records on 1 September 2008. Guests included Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe, Norma Waterson and Mike Waterson. A special edition was released featuring an album of remixes and an album of James Yorkston covers by artists such as King Creosote, U.N.P.O.C. and Cathal Coughlan.

In August 2009, Domino Records released Folk Songs, an album of traditional songs, arranged and performed by James Yorkston and The Big Eyes Family Players. In March 2011 Yorkston's debut book, It's Lovely to be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent came out, via the Domino Press. That year he collaborated with The Fruit Tree Foundation, appearing on its debut album, First Edition.

In August 2012, Domino Records release Yorkston's seventh album, I Was a Cat from a Book which had very favourable reviews[9] and debuted on the Official Record Store Chart at number 6.[10] Double-bassist Doogie Paul (Douglas Paul), one of The Athletes, died on 3 November 2012 in Edinburgh, from cancer aged 40.[11]

Domino Records' eighth album with Yorkston, The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society, produced by Alexis Taylor of synth-pop band Hot Chip, was released in August 2014. It featured special guests KT Tunstall and The Pictish Trail amongst others.[12] TCRAWS was met well and received very good reviews[13]

In 2015 Domino Records released The Demonstrations of the Craws, a vinyl only release, featuring a compilation of demos from The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society and I was a Cat from a Book. Yorkston also began running his folk club Tae Sup wi' a Fifer,[14] in Kirkcaldy, Fife, which has thus far had such diverse guests as Martin Carthy, Alexis Taylor, Dick Gaughan, Richard Dawson, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, Karine Polwart, Lisa O'Neill, Steve Mason, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Brighde Chaimbeul, Malcolm Middleton, Ian McMillan, Ian Rankin, Horse McDonald and Phill Jupitus.

In early 2016, Freight Books published James' second book, his debut novel 3 Craws.[15] Later that year Yorkston released the album Everything Sacred as part of the trio, with Jon Thorne (a double bass player best known for his work with electro outfit Lamb) and Suhail Yusuf Khan, an eighth generation Sarangi player from New Delhi, India.

His ninth album, Route to the Harmonium, recorded in the small Scottish fishing village of Cellardyke and co-produced by David Wrench, was released on 22 February 2019, via Domino to mostly positive reviews.[16][17]



  • J. Wright Presents – 2001, Fence Records
  • Moving Up Country – 2002, Domino Records
  • Just Beyond the River – 2004, Domino Records – UK No. 155[18]
  • The Year of the Leopard – 2006, Domino Records
  • Live at Le Poisson Mouillé – 2006, self released, concert only release
  • Roaring the Gospel – 2007, Domino Records compilation of B-sides, etc.
  • 'Lang Cat, Crooked Cat, Spider Cat – 2007, instrumental release for Fence Records
  • 30 – 2004, Fence Records – one 30-minute track
  • When the Haar Rolls In – 2008, Domino Records – UK No. 178[19]
  • Folk Songs – 2009, Domino Records, Traditionals.
  • I Was a Cat from a Book – 2012, Domino Records
  • The Invaders Salute Captain America - The Songs of Daniel Johnston – 2013, Chemikal Underground (With Adrian Crowley)
  • The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society – 2014, Domino Records
  • The Demonstrations of the Craws - 2015, Domino Records[20]
  • Everything Sacred - 2016, Domino Records (as Yorkston Thorne Khan, with Jon Thorne and Suhail Yusuf Khan)
  • Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars - 2017, Domino Records (as Yorkston Thorne Khan)
  • Route to the Harmonium - 2019, Domino Records


  • "Shipwreckers" (Domino) 14 February 2005 – UK No. 88[21]
  • "Surf Song" (Domino) 5 June 2005: UK No. 241[21]


  • 'It's lovely to be here - The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent' (Faber) 2011[22]
  • '3 Craws' - (Freight) 2016[23]

Other contributions


  1. Galloway, Vic (8 July 2013). "Songs in the Key of Fife: The Intertwining Stories of The Beta Band, King Creosote, KT Tunstall, James Yorkston and the Fence Collective". Birlinn via Google Books.
  2. "James Yorkston: I Don't Muck Around". Thisisfakediy.co.uk. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  3. "Domino Announce James Yorkston The Athletes' 10th anniversary edition of Moving up Country".
  4. "J. Wright presents Moving up Country ltd ed. 7" single".
  5. "Finger Magazine - Interviews - James Yorkston". Fingermag.com. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  6. "Moving Up Country 10th Anniversary Edition". Jamesyorkston.co.uk. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  7. Green Man Festival 2003. indiethroughthelookingglass.com
  8. "NME Reviews - James Yorkston - NME.COM". Nme.com. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  9. James Yorkston. "CAT Reviews". Domino Records. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  10. Wells, V.S. (20 August 2012). "Spector top the Official Record Store Chart". Official Charts Company.
  11. James Yorkston. "RIP Doogie Paul". Domino Records. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  12. James Yorkston. "CRAWS". Domino Records. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  13. James Yorkston. "CRAWS Reviews". Domino Records. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  14. "James Yorkston presents Tae Sup Wi' A Fifer". Tae Sup Wi' A Fifer. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  15. "Three Craws by James Yorkston - Freight Books". www.freightbooks.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. James Yorkston Announces New Album. www.dominorecordco.com
  17. "Reviews. James Yorkston. The Route to The Harmonium". AnyDecentMusic. 22 February 2019.
  18. Zobbel (16 June 2007). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  19. "The Official Album Chart for the week ending 13 September 2008". ChartsPlus. Milton Keynes: IQ Ware Ltd (368): 5–8.
  20. "The Demonstrations of the Craws by James Yorkston (Album): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music". rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  21. Zobbel (16 June 2007). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  22. "It's Lovely To Be Here - The Touring Diaries Of A Scottish Gent". Domino. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  23. "Three Craws by James Yorkston - Freight Books". www.freightbooks.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.

Further reading

  • Galloway, Vic (1 September 2013). Songs in the Key of Fife: the Intertwining Stories of the Beta Band, King Creosote, KT Tunstall, James Yorkston and the Fence Collective. Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 9781846972355.
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