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For any Living Tradition reader who may not yet be aware of Fife-based songwriter James Yorkston, it will help if you are to learn of the now legendary tale that has enabled him to be in the position of releasing his remarkable second album, Just Beyond The River.

After leaving his bass player position in a garage punk band, he opted for the acoustic guitar, learned a few chords and began writing and recording songs with some friends from the truly inspirational Fence Collective label. One of these songs became his first single, Moving up Country. James sent the demo to John Peel (like every musician starting out should do) he played it, and the next thing he knew he was asked to sign with a small independent label who managed to secure him a support slot for an entire John Martyn tour. And the rest, well, is history.

Just Beyond The River is the follow up to 2002's debut, Moving Up Country, an extremely accomplished record and certainly one of my favourites of the last couple of years. The songs on the new album have a darker edge to them than previously, however they remain as intriguing as ever. The warmth in Yorkston's simple vocal fills the music with a genuine soul that is often lacking in many contemporary songwriters tunes, and his lyrics leave you with the feeling that he is talking to you face to face in the living room of your own home. The Athletes are the excellent backing band, whose delicate playing glides along beautifully throughout the album. Their choice of instruments includes a mixture of fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin and banjo.

It's difficult to pick standout tracks when all are so strong, however 'Surf Song' and 'Banjo #1, with its experimental John Cale style fiddle solo, are already firmly implanted in the brain. Proving that his influences spread far and wide, the album concludes with a rousing rendition of The Snow It Melts The Soonest. Modelled on the Anne Briggs version, this is one of two traditional tracks (the second being Edward) that make up this excellent recording.

If you're a fan of The Pentangle, Planxty or Nick Drake you should definitely check this album out. All you need to do now is jump on the ship, sail down the river, and discover the treasures that lie just beyond it.

Stuart Ross