Alasdair Roberts The Amber Gatherers

Alasdair Roberts reinterprets traditional UK folk the same way Will Oldham reinterprets Americana; he takes a highly personal approach to a time-honoured genre. It was Oldham who gave Roberts’ band, Appendix Out, an initial push over a decade ago and since then Roberts has taken to releasing solo records, often eschewing his own songwriting altogether in favour of reworking traditional standards. The Amber Gatherers is all new material, although the only indication of this is in the liner notes. It keeps an even keel, featuring mostly Roberts’ acoustic guitar playing and vocals, which are enough to make the album. His voice is shy, understated and pretty, and it takes a voice like this to deliver lyrics like "I had a kiss of the king’s hand/Down by the sea” with credibility. Unlike many neo-traditional bands in his vein, Roberts doesn’t need to resort to "experimental” tactics in order to leave a personal stamp; he doesn’t use unnecessary sound effects or bother with long, meandering jams. His personality comes across in subtle ways through his instrument and his singing, and he balances traditional form with individual quirk. The album’s main fault is that it can get a little dull, and at times a little new age-y, but these moments fade away fairly quickly. Nothing out of the ordinary, as far as Roberts’ catalogue goes, but Roberts’ catalogue is consistently good. (Drag City)