Published Jan 23, 2015There's something about a mid-career self-titled album that heralds an apex in the artist's creative output. Scottish singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts has eight albums under his belt, featuring a mix of traditional and original songs, the latter paying playful homage to the sound and style of the former. Put this most recent offering on in the background and you might feel as though you're hearing the tales of some medieval balladeer, but listen to the lyrics, and this is an album of original music, of and about the present.
Opening track "The Way Unfavoured" sets the tone for the poetry to come: "She'll be wild lover, she'll be wayward/ Between the nursery and the noose/ Between the playground, love, and the graveyard/ Between the birthmark and deathbed bruise." Roberts' clear, tenor voice and warm, sparse finger-style guitar playing give his lyrics unadorned space to shine. Some songs are accompanied, though never cluttered, by choir vocals and tin whistles. The slow, pensive tempo barely changes from song to song, making the album moody and meditative, perfect for tea-in-hand winter listening. Roberts' characteristic style is Scottish without cliché, and his marriage of old and new stands out in an oversaturated, strummy-guitar field of singer-songwriters as a gorgeous album from beginning to end. (Drag City)