Music review: Yorkston Thorne Ghatak, Summerhall, Edinburgh

With their regular collaborator Suhail Khan unable to travel, James Yorkston and Jon Thorne teamed up with singer and harmonium player Ranjana Ghatak, to mesmeric effect, writes Fiona Shepherd

James Yorkston
James Yorkston

Yorkston Thorne Ghatak, Summerhall, Edinburgh ****

Once upon a pre-pandemic time, there was a genre-traversing trio called Yorkston Thorne Khan who produced three intoxicating albums which drew on their respective traditions, made explicit in the title of their second collaboration, Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars.

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Singer/guitarist James Yorkston, from the Kingdom of Fife, brought Scottish folk music old and new to the table, double bassist Jon Thorne, originally from the Isle of Wight, has roots in jazz and electronica, while Delhi singer and sarangi player Suhail Khan remains steeped in Indian classical and sacred music – and was also unable to secure a visa to allow him to join his compadres on this much delayed tour.

But (sort of) just as supergroup Emerson Lake & Palmer transitioned to Emerson Lake & Powell, this super group have acquired a new member – singer and harmonium player Ranjana Ghatak, who added new colours to their palette. Schooled in the same Hindustani traditions as Khan, she supplied a lighter, lullaby touch with her beautiful melismatic vocals and the gentle drone of harmonium which complemented Thorne’s plangent basslines and Yorkston’s soft, husky vocals and hypnotic, undulating guitar playing to seamless effect.

All three played with a lithe dexterity but projected a soothing grace as east and west found a shared sweet spot. Occasionally, Yorkston switched to Swedish nyckelharpa, adding a mournful, occasionally keening tone to their mesmeric reveries. Thorne borrowed Yorkston’s guitar to lead on One More Day, a plaintive paean to home. Best of all, Ghatak added eerie harmonic undertones to Yorkston’s rendition of traditional ballad The Twa Brothers, which dovetailed into a closing rendition of Westlin Winds. This happy concord was all the more impressive given the trio had only met and rehearsed for the first time one week earlier, fuelled by chai tea and sonic sympathy.