James Yorkston and the Second Hand Orchestra: The Wide, Wide River review – comfort amid the carnage

Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 05:30

   
 

Album:
The Wide, Wide River

Artist:
James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra

Label:
Domino

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

James Yorkston’s 10th record for Domino records reveals both a playful looseness and a radiant warmth. Recorded and mixed in three days, it is the culmination of a long friendship between Yorkston and Karl-Jonas Winqvist, the Swedish music producer, and leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra.

Taking in songs about past loves, present love, friends here and gone, ageing, and anxiety, the atmosphere is surprisingly hopeful, with the orchestra, featuring Peter Morén (Peter, Bjorn & John) and Cecilia Österholm, adding an improvisational flair that adds depth and richness to the eight compositions.

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From the lovely textures on Ella Mary Leather, to the light-as-a-feather To Soothe Her Wee Bit Sorrows – Yorkston’s scratchy, yet delicate vocal flits around, settling on the perch of an elegant violin here, and strum of radiant guitar there.

Choices, like Wide Rivers, resembles an old folk song, washing through a Beatles-meets-gospel influence, amid a pleasing choral element. Struggle sounds anything but – a love song to Yorkston’s children about it being okay not to be okay, with harmonies conveying a tender comfort.

That sense of comfort amid emotional carnage is a fault line throughout the record, from There is No Upside and its rueful lyric “St Patrick came between us” to the immersive highlight Droplet Forms – with its compelling piano melody, and a creeping echo of Radiohead’s How to Disappear Completely, it transports.