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James Yorkston The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society (Domino)

Billed as a solo album but warmly collaborative, recorded in a studio but as intimate as a live gig, CRAWS is James Yorkston, right, at his melodic, harmonic and lyrical best.

It's particularly lovely to hear KT Tunstall fit subtle backing harmonies behind Yorkston's distinctive lead vocal before picking up a solo verse herself on Fellow Man, hanging onto a note like a blues chanteuse and catching the jazzy bounce of Jon Thorne's acoustic double bass. Elsewhere, the backing singers (who include The Pictish Trail and album producer Alexis Taylor among their number) occasionally comment on Yorkston's words like a Greek chorus. It's mostly a low-key guitar/voice/bass affair, with a touch of piano here and there, although Emma Smith contributes some beautiful double-stop violin solos and Fimber Bravo's steel drums add an unexpected but no less befitting texture to a handful of tracks. As a writer and performer, Yorkston is at the top of his game: Broken Wave, his tribute to the late Doogie Paul, is as moving as anything in his ever-more-impressive songbook.

Alan Morrison

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