I Was a Cat from a Book is the 10th album from Scottish singer-songwriter James Yorkston and his first album of new material since 2008’s When The Haar Rolls In. With a new backing band behind him Yorkston has created an album that is, at times, both beautiful and beguiling in equal measure.
In many ways it is quite an intimate and emotive album, with hushed, almost whispered, vocals and delicate instrumentation. It is an album tinged in melancholy, yet that is not to say it’s an oppressive listen; quite the opposite. There are moments of levity, sonic explosions of tumbling lyricism and rowdy instrumentation, yet there is a real sense of balance to the record. These moments of departure don’t sound out of place.
Much of the instrumentation on the album is sublime, the perfect accompaniment to the poetry of Yorkston’s lyrics. Though less regimented than on his previous work, there is still a degree of precision there. At times it counteracted my perception of what is a folk sound, with an almost soft electronica element. The quality of the vocal performance is high throughout, with Yorkston’s delivery being urgent and raw or plaintive and nuanced, as needed. The guest vocals from Jill O’Sullivan and Kathryn Roberts really add an extra element to their respective songs "Just as Scared" and "Kath with Rhodes".
It’s quite difficult to find an obvious favourite from the album, even after repeated listens. Much of that difficultly lies in the fact that with each listen, something different catches my ear, and draws my attention. That being said, "The Fire & The Flames" is a beautifully poignant track, with a real honesty to the lyrics, and delivery that packs an emotional punch. Whilst "Border Song" and "I Can Take All This" are memorable for their difference in style; rambling raucous tracks nestled amongst plaintive poetry.
I Was a Cat From A Book is, simply put, an affecting and mesmerising album, and one of the Yorkston’s finest to date.
Review Score: 8.7/10