'Every so often a record comes out of nowhere and astounds you with its brilliance' NME
And so proclaimed James' first review, for his debut single The Lang Toun.
The accompanying album, Moving Up Country, was declared Rough Trade Album Of The Year (2002). Since then, James has gone on to become 'One of the most respected and influential singer/songwriters on the Scottish indie-folk scene' (The Scotsman, 2009)
James hails from the East Neuk of Fife and is a member of the well-known Fence Collective, who spawned such luminaries as The Beta Band, King Creosote, The Aliens & KT Tunstall. Signed to Domino Records, James has released a string of highly acclaimed albums, his second album Just Beyond The River (2004) receiving this rave review:
'Yorkston has reached a state of grace that writers can spend for ever 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?' - 5/5 The Times
Just Beyond The River was also individually declared a 'masterpiece' by Time Out, The Telegraph, Record Collector and The Fly.
James came to the attention of Domino Records whilst he was supporting John Martyn on a 30 date tour of the UK & Ireland in 2001, a slot James had secured after sending a cassette to John's management, asking for the Edinburgh support only to be offered the whole tour. Since then, James has played all over world touring North America with Beth Orton, Jonathan Richmond and Turin Brakes; and the UK and Europe / Scandinavia with Lambchop, Tindersticks, David Gray, King Creosote and Kathryn Williams as well as one-off shows with Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy and countless others. James has also appeared at such festivals as The Greenman (where he has played every year), Glastonbury, Latitude, The Big Chill, End Of The Road, Bestival, Summer Sundae, Field Day, Accelerator, Homegame and many more.
In 2007 the BBC Electric Proms programmed a tribute to the late Lal Waterson and asked James to be musical director, alongside Lal's son Olly Knight. This involved James working alongside Lal's family The Watersons as well as other special guests. The show was broadcast on BBC3 as well as BBC Radio 2's Mike Harding programme. The following year, James performed at a filmed concert with renowned American songwriter Daniel Johnston at the Union Chapel in London, with James accompanying Daniel on guitar & harmonium.
James' 2008 album When The Haar Rolls In garnered four & five star reviews from The Times, The Sun, The Independent, The Sunday Herald, NME, UNCUT & Mojo and this comment from Phil Selway of Radiohead, 'For me, listening to James Yorkston's music is like coming across the interesting-looking person on the fringes of a party. Before you know it, you've spent the evening listening to their compelling tale. In this record, I get a real sense that he has found his true voice. There's a quiet confidence in his craft; his singing, the words and instrumentation, all blend seamlessly to produce a really affecting record.' The album also rekindled James' relationship with the Watersons, with Norma and Mike Waterson and Lal Waterson's children Marry & Olly performing on a Krautrock take on Lal Waterson's Midnight Feast, prompting BBC2's The Culture Show to film an interview and performance with James, the second time he has been featured on the show. Channel 4 also screened a twenty minute documentary on the making of Haar, directed by renowned Irish film maker Ian Cudmore.
In 2009 James released a side project Folk Songs, again on Domino Records, this album being a collaboration with Sheffield alt-classical group The Big Eyes Family Players. Just as it says on the tin, this album features James tackling a number of the big traditional songs that had influenced him early in his career, learned from the singing of Anne Briggs, Nic Jones, Christy Moore and others. 2009 also saw Faber publishing one of James' tour diaries in their journal Loops and live shows in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Ireland & the UK. James is currently writing his follow up album to When The Haar Rolls In.
In February 2011 James's tour diaries, titled 'It's Lovely To Be Here', were published by Faber/Domino Press and in April 2012, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of James's debut album, Moving Up Country The 10th Anniversary Edition was released.
Summer 2012 saw the release of James's first new original works studio album in four years. 'I Was A Cat From A Book' features members of Lamb and The Cinematic Orchestra alongside past band members. Recorded during five wintry days in South Wales, it is an album full of energy and great musicianship which has been embraced enthusiastically by public and media alike.