James Yorkston’s Someplace Simple EP, coming on the heels of his 2002 album Moving Up Country and 2003 EP Sweet Jesus, is pretty obviously derivative of usual folk suspects: Oldham, Drake, Cohen. These quiet, acoustic songs are pastoral and unexceptional, but are graceful in their modesty and, ultimately, tough not to like.
Yorkston riffs on the folksy humbleness gimmick, singing wistful lyrics like “Wouldn’t you like to be the man by her side when she makes her plan?” over softly strummed guitars and twangy banjoes. This formula can easily go awry and descend into self-indulgent sappiness, but Yorkston resists all that with an element of restraint, not only in the dignified-sounding string strums, but also in his soothingly pleasing voice. While the melancholy of long-faced tunes like “False True Love” is emotionally affecting, Yorkston minimizes emotive shock tactics with detached and self-possessed singing that makes you want to sing along with him. Nice music for a gray rainy day.