Pumajaw – Edinburgh – Liquid Room, Scotland – 2006-10-22

Where: Edinburgh – Liquid Room, Scotland.

When: 2006-10-22

I’ve been going to gigs at the Liquid Room, and back when it was called the Music Box, for many years now and it was the first time I’ve walked into the venue and seen seats laid out on the floor. Perhaps this is a sign that they weren’t expecting a big crowd, although it isn’t a typically raucous, all-standing show tonight, maybe they were taking the opportunity to make it a bit more intimate and homely for Yorkston and co.

Still, there was a reasonable turnout for a Sunday night. Pumajaw (a.k.a. Pinkie Maclure and John Wills) played a haunting, gothic folk sound, Wills adding beats, guitar and drum loops and noises to Maclure’s resonating voice and concertina. Maclure was a captivating sight as she glides around the stage, seemingly lost in the moments of her and Wills’ songs. And their songs, at times lovely and alluring, at others dark and mystical, were nothing less attention-holding.

As much as I loved The Delgados, I can’t help feeling disappointed by Emma Pollock’s solo material. Armed with an acoustic guitar and backed by Jamie Savage (brother of Delgados drummer Paul) on electric piano, Pollock delivered a set that never lifted itself above the bland and inoffensive. I am intrigued to hear her songs with a full band nonetheless, perhaps they will fill out and become as multi-layered as her previous recordings. Maybe that’s a forlorn hope and that wish is clouded by memories of times past. My erstwhile colleague on the evening described her set as “Hersh-lite” and it was a fair comparison. A comparison that may continue to accompany her throughout her time as a solo performer.

There wasn’t any chance of being disappointed by James Yorkston (and the 2 Athletes accompanying him on stand-up bass and accordion). Yorkston’s beautiful, frail songs were full of warmth, feeling and depth. He opens with an an acapella, traditional number before segueing into “Steady As She Goes” from his latest, and best, LP “Year Of The Leopard”. Traditional folk has always played a part in Yorkston’s 3 LPs and he takes its best elements (he’s a brilliant guitarist) and mixes it in with winsome melodies and arrangements that are quite heartbreaking at times.

Yorkston is a wonderful self-deprecating performer too (near the end of the set he asks for the time and muses when told “it’s ten to (ten). Time to wheel out the hits…”). He and his band play choice cuts from each LP (“I Awoke”, “Us Late Travellers” from the latest, “Shipwreckers” from the second and the closing coupling of “St Patrick” and “Sweet Jesus” from the first) were particular stand outs) before disappearing into the night at the appointed curfew time.

He could have played for a lot longer than the hour and 20 minutes or so that he did and I know that not a second of it would have been wasted. It’s a fairly simple formula Yorkston has and sometimes that simplicity bears fruit. It’s easy to tell that Yorkston and his friends enjoy what they do, they are relaxed and easy with each other and it lends itself to an atmosphere that the Edinburgh crowd add to. The reception afforded to them is warm and well-deserved. It was pretty special to be in their company.