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James Yorkston / The Pictish Trail and Rozi Plain / Lazy Sheepdog

Aberdeen Carmelite Hotel, 27th November 2008

Featured Artists: James Yorkston and the Athletes 

Aberdeen`s finest live shows are invariably put together by Interesting Music Promotions and the venue for tonight`s show (the swanky mini-ballroom of the Carmelite Hotel) is nothing but interesting while the bill is a suitably eclectic selection of contemporary folk music.  The combination results rather hilariously in latecomers walking gingerly, lest they disturb the performers or the cross-legged audience, to the bar.

First on is local hero and, if there`s any justice at all, star in the making Lazy Sheepdog.  He has a wonderful voice, a dry sense of humour and an affability only matched by those who will follow him tonight.  He plays guitar, banjo, accordian and sings sans backing with unworldly ease. He also sings traditional sea shanties and delivers his own poetry...and he`s doing all this with a stinking cold!

"Feel free to swing from the chandeliers" he says, noting the plush surroundings before introducing his next song which he tells us was written to justify his double fail of school maths.  He finishes with a stomping, acapella version of `The Lincolnshire poacher`, a traditional folk song from where he was born - you wouldn`t know it from the accent!

Johnny Lynch, better known as The Pictish Trail, is next joined by Rozi Plain and, initially, by James Yorkston.  The duo are as quiet as Lazy Sheepdog was raucous, comprising two guitars, two voices, gossamer verses and velvet choruses.  One song eventually introduces fast hand claps and foot stomps. The comparative effect is as if Slayer had just walked in and turned the stage amps up to 11. Did I say they were quiet? Jesus!

Like a Magic Numbers untouched by corporate radio they raise spirits, again pausing between songs to offer wry witticisms and amusing observations.  Perhaps the highlight of the set is a cover of Ivor Cutler`s `I Am A Yellow Fly` which they openly admit they`ve never rehearsed then pull off with ease - Ivor would be proud - before welcoming James back for a final run through `Into the Smoke`.

Sporting a blue baseball cap that a fan left behind in Newcastle, James Yorkston takes his place as a solo artist to rapt applause although I find it hard to hide my disappointment that none of his band The Athletes are in attendance.  This is a minor quibble as Yorkston more than holds his own by himself even when car horns from outside hilariously put him off his stride between verses.

"That`s my arch rival" he quips he before continuing.

It sems all folk singers are natural storytellers. One wonders whether ITV will screen `An Audience with James Yorkston` years from now with young starlets who`ve never met him asking him to recall the story of when he drove four hours from Gateshead to Fife only to be puked on by his own offspring?  Or will they gasp in wonder as he improvises a song about meeting a Ronnie Corbett lookalike at a service station?  One thing`s for sure, only James will stop a song to explain in huge detail why his harmonica solo was a bit off.

With a huge back catalogue to choose from and such treats as `Steady As She Goes` and a hilarious duet with Lazy Sheepdog  on yet another little known traditional ditty, it`s not surprising that James doesn`t touch any of the songs from his astounding new album `When The Haar Rolls In` in a very entertaining first half.

However, welcoming Johnny and Rozi back to the stage, he ushers in both `Queen of Spain` and a remarkable `Tortoise Regrets Hare` with his new team members filling in the blanks to recreate the warmth so natural to the very special new album.  With the show already appraoching its third hour, it`s disappointing that a wonderfully intimate `Summer`s Not The Same Without You` appears to cause a mass exodus.  One can only assume the last bus is about to leave as James still has plenty in the tank and this appreciative audience who shrug off the occasional bum note and almost applaud times where James is caught out have shown themselves to be nothing more than captivated.

Of a very special second set only `Would You Have Me Born With Wooden Eyes` is a little too stripped down, self indulgent and, well, long for these ears but, as the set is brought to a close with the lines "I`ve been drinking less and sleep comes to me", it`s like a redemptive sobriety after an hour and a half of binging on subtle, acoustic, deceptively potent moonshine. Drink it in, drink it in!

Posted on 5 December 2008 by Richard Brown

Tags: James Yorkston  Pictish Trail  Rozi Plain  Lazy Sheepdog  Aberdeen  Carmelite Hotel  Live Review 

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Article Feedback

Lee Anderson wrote:
Gig was really good

i asked for wooden eyes - sorry! Was for the wife.

Lazy sheepdog was fun.
     Posted on 6 December 2008 at 12:30
Trevor Loughlin wrote:
`Tortoise Regrets Hare` with James Yorkstone and Rozi Plain (as seen on the culture show) is beyond nu-folk. It is up there with Jefferson Airplanes "White Rabbit", The Chameleons "Seriosity" and the Bunnymens "Flaming Red"-Yorkston and the lovely Rozi are an incredible combination.
     Posted on 17 December 2008 at 08:09
Richie wrote:
Thankyou sir - yes, a standout track on the best album of the year!
     Posted on 17 December 2008 at 14:31

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