James Yorkston / Adrian Crowley,Crawdaddy, Dublin
JANUARY IS normally a musical wasteland, but this beautiful set from James Yorkston and Adrian Crowley lit up the dreariest of months. Indeed, this performance of forlorn folk songs felt like the musical equivalent of sitting entranced by a flickering fire as the winter rages outside.
Yorkston and Crowley, respectively Britain and Ireland’s best-kept secrets, are two of the finest songwriters around, as gifted with the English language as they are with their instruments. Both members of the Fence Collective, the Fife-based group of like-minded musicians, their songs are one of a kind, sombre and pensive and alluring.
Crowley performed first, debuting a number of songs from his nearly completed new album, the follow-up to the magnificent Long Distance Swimmer. While his songs are growers, demanding attention and repeated listens, these new songs worked well first-time around, given depth by Kevin Murphy on cello. It was enough to suggest his new album might be one of 2009’s best.
Then Yorkston arrived, peering out from under a cap, performing with an acoustic guitar, occasional harmonica and the percussion of his right foot on the stage floor.
His voice is like a soft day – it washes over the listener, its subtle, mellifluous character gradually surrounding you. He spun gossamer melodies from his guitar, his fingers gliding across the strings, while his lyrics paint vivid pictures of romance unrequited or lost.
At one point, Yorkston invited a volunteer from the audience to join him onstage, leading to a wonderful duet version of the traditional Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk. While Yorkston and Crowley joke about their depressing music, they are witty and charming between songs, their anecdotes an amusing counterpoint to their lyrics.
“When the haar rolls in,” Yorkston sings, referring to the Scottish coastal fog, “we close our eyes and everything is okay.” It’s a particular kind of solace these songs offer, but they beg you to close your eyes and realise everything will be okay.