James Yorkston was born in Kingsbarns, a small village in Fife, Scotland. At the age of eight, he started playing music and fell in love with the craft. At 17, he moved from Fife to the larger city of Edinburgh with his girlfriend. It was at that time that he became involved with a garage rock and punk band called Huckleberry, with Yorkston as the group's bass player. In 1996, he performed his first acoustic show after a friend working in a record shop picked Yorkston as an opening act for Bert Jansch in Edinburgh. The acoustic and punk rock genres were something the musician loved equally, but he chose the acoustic folk route. In 2000, under the name "J. Wright Presents," Yorkston recorded a demo tape at home and sent it to John Peel, who played the song on his program immediately. Yorkston also sent a tape to John Martyn, requesting an opening slot on his Edinburgh show. Martyn invited Yorkston to be his opening act for all 30 dates. "Moving Up Country" was released as a single in October 2000 on Bad Jazz Records. In January 2001, it was released as a 7" single. Exactly a year later, Yorkston released a split single with the Lone Pigeon, followed in May 2002 by Yorkston and his supporting cast the Athletes' EP St. Patrick. His debut album, Moving Up Country, followed in June.
Citing Anna Briggs, Lal Waterson, Nick Drake, and Malagasy guitarist D'Gary as musical influences, Yorkston has also opened for Lambchop, Turin Brakes, the Divine Comedy, and Gemma Hayes. The Someplace Simple EP appeared in December 2003. In February 2004, Yorkston and his group hit the studio with producer Kieran Hebden of Four Tet. The results of the session were released in late 2004 as Just Beyond the River on Domino. The following year, the Spanish label Houston Records issued the EP Hoopoe, which included five new songs, and in 2007, Yorkston's third full-length, The Year of the Leopard, came out in the U.S. (it had already hit British shelves the previous fall). Arriving in 2008, When the Haar Rolls In was a confident follow-up, and he joined forces with Sheffield's Big Eyes Family Players in 2009 to produce an album of traditional material simply titled Folk Songs.
Yorkston's canon had always betrayed a literary slant and, fittingly, he published the effortlessly witty It's Lovely to Be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent in 2011. The following year saw the release of I Was a Cat from a Book, his first album of self-penned material in four years, and The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society -- recorded in London with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip on production duties -- arrived in summer 2014. The following April, on Record Store Day, Domino issued the limited-edition LP The Demonstrations of the Craws, which was a collection of Yorkston's demos from the Cellardyke sessions. In addition to working on his debut novel, he also began working with jazz bassist Jon Thorne and Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan, and the newly minted trio recorded an experimental folk album called Everything Sacred under the name Yorkston/Thorne/Khan. Both that album and his novel, Three Craws, arrived in early 2016. ~ Jason MacNeil