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Now Hear This: James Yorkston & The Second Hand Orchestra | The Wide, Wide River

The Scottish singer-songwriter joins forces with a dozen Swedish heavyweights.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra’s album The Wide, Wide River came to be after the blossoming of a long-term friendship between James Yorkston and Karl-Jonas Winqvist, the Swedish music producer, leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra.

It was recorded and mixed in Sweden over the course of three days with a selection of musicians Winqvist had brought together, including Peter Morén (Peter, Bjorn & John), Cecilia Österholm (one of Sweden’s best-known nyckelharpa players), Emma Nordenstam (piano & cello) and Ulrika Gyllenberg (violin). The studio approach with The Second Hand Orchestra was entirely improvised around Yorkston’s songs, and the only song they heard in advance was Ella Mary Leather; Yorkston didn’t want to direct anyone too much but instead, allowed for a welcoming, instinctive, free-spirited and joyful atmosphere. The Wide, Wide River is a soothing, warm and sublime listen, whilst also highlighting Yorkston’s skills for songwriting, collaboration and as a musical conductor. The record takes in past loves, advancing age and friends, now gone, whilst also containing some of the most sanguine songs Yorkston has ever made.

The first single from the record was Struggle. With lyrics that say: “I hope I can tell you that I love you, when you are too old to be told”, Struggle is a tender and beautiful love song to James’ children. “It’s me telling my kids that it’s ok to not be ok, and that indeed, sometimes I struggle” he says.

Yorkston says of recording Struggle with TSHO: “The band were sat by in the studio by themselves, looping the verses over and over. I was in the control room, drinking sweet tea. I just had to wait for the right moment and jump on board, like when I’m pushing my kids round on a roundabout in the local park. I love that everyone was singing along so freely when we recorded this. There were vocal mics for everyone, and people would just lean in with a harmony, every now and then. It gives it a very communal feeling.” That communal feeling is apparent across the entire album.

The Wide, Wide River is James’ 10th album, not to mention his three albums as part of Yorkston/Thorne/Khan and his two books. A prolific writer, Yorkston has worked with a wealth of talent over his two-decade career including Four Tet, Alexis Taylor, KT Tunstall, Rustin Man, Simon Raymonde, Norma and Mike Waterson, Martin Carthy, Max Cooper, David Wrench and many others.”