James Yorkston, resident of the East Neuk of Fife, returns in the company of The Big Eyes Family Players with a new album of traditional songs from the length and breadth of the Great Britain & Ireland and one tune from Galicia in Spain. After a decade which has seen folk music morph into nu-folk, mobile phone-ad folk, mortgage-folk, smoothie-folk and so on, Yorkston has reached back into the tradition of song and place and drawn a line in the sand.

“The idea behind this album of folk songs first surfaced around 2000 / 2001: To record an album of traditional songs for Fence Records of St. Andrews, to sell as a companion piece to my own work which they were then punting out to unsuspecting golfers. So I set to it, learning songs from cassettes and CDs by Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie and Nic Jones, Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr; recording them to various states of success and undress. I also tackled a few Lal Waterson tracks – Scarecrow & Fine Horseman. Lal’s songwriting of course I’ve revisited since. Alas, it ended up unreleased – Domino Records, in a rare lapse of good judgement, decided to offer me a record contract and the folk album got put on the back burner.  Being miserly, the songs I’d recorded already, or had marked for that original traditional album, were mostly put on subsequent albums or EPs. So, this album here consists of 11 “new” tunes. New as in chosen and recorded especially for this record. But they’re not new songs, by any means.

 I picked up The Big Eyes Family Players somewhere along the way. Any touring musician will tell you – CDs from punters and fellow musicians seem to end up in your pockets at the end of every gig. At the end of every tour there’s a least half a dozen CDs, CDrs, etc.  One such CD I discovered was by Big Eyes; and lo-and-behold, I loved what I heard. I contacted the main guy, James Green, and we’ve been in touch ever since. When I decided to resurrect this traditional album idea, he was an obvious choice of partner in crime. I didn’t want to work with my usual band The Athletes, but there was no slur there, they’ll be back on board for the next James Yorkston album proper – I just fancied trying something different.”

James Green began recording in Leeds as Big Eyes around the year 2000, with the intention of creating his own version of ‘classical music’ despite knowing very little about the genre. After writing a few songs/pieces on his own, he plucked up enough courage to try and get some help to play them. Nine years on, and now based in Sheffield, the group have become The Big Eyes Family Players. To date, TBEFP have released three albums: ‘Do The Musiking’ in 2006 (Pickled Egg); ‘Donkeysongs’ in 2008 (Rusted Rail); and ‘Warm Room’ in 2009 (Pickled Egg).

JY asked me if I wanted to work an album of folk songs with him. I was thrilled at the offer and said yes, of course. It then occurred to me that I knew little about the folk tradition (a recurring theme) but threw caution to the wind and the rest is history...”