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ALASDAIR ROBERTS

Alasdair Roberts

MusicCD
Folk

[80/100]   

Drag City
04/01/2015, Paul PLEDGER

Seemingly keen to spread the phenomena of Scottish folk music to a global audience, Alasdair Roberts has spent the past year or so performing across Brazil, as well as his homeland and all corners of the UK - there's never been a better time to be a sensitive Caledonian. His most recent albums A Wonder Working Stone (recorded with 'friends') and Hirta Songs (with Robin Robertson, dedicated to St Kilda) proved to be his most resilient works yet - until now.

For 2015, Roberts heads back to basics with a solo (ish) collection bearing a self-titled moniker and a predominantly acoustic backdrop in front of which sits the songwriter's amiable storytelling. It completes a riveting, if unintentional, trilogy of terrific recordings that covers all lyrical bases from historical odyssey, past gaelic myth and onwards to forward-thinking progressive folk-roots.

As usual, Roberts' pretty and nuanced shanties make full use of scales and chords, but where previous works have perhaps befitted a call to arms and a brisk march or protest, this self-titled set suits more intimate surroundings such as a small crofter's lounge with roaring peat-fire and a glass of the hard stuff.

With or without Roberts' soulful tonsils, pieces such as Artless One and Hurricane Brown possess enough in the way of expressive instrumental interpretation to hold one's attention for the full forty minutes. He should seriously consider recording just one instrumental album - Roberts' illuminating plucking and strumming just gets better and better with each album. Perhaps the album's musical centrepiece is The Mossy Shrine with its subject-matter touching on death (not unusual for Roberts) and its untouchable chorus, borne out of ascending scales and real soul music. At first listen, you might suspect that Roberts borrows from classical influences as well as folk, such is the song's complexity.

In fact pretty much all of this warm, friendly and captivating album could have come from roots music from anywhere in the world, not just the Scottish Highlands. A man for all regions, perhaps. A man for all seasons, certainly.

This review also appeared on Flipside Reviews

Paul PLEDGER
04/01/2015


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