Alasdair Roberts The Crook Of My Arm

When it comes to ye olde school Britpop, this is the real deal. Of course, it's more commonly referred to as folk music. The lyrical storytelling and achingly sweet melodies of early British Isles folk has always been ground zero for the internationally successful UK pop music of recent centuries. Here we find two contemporary rock/pop artists providing traditional renditions of their folk favourites. In John Wesley Harding's case, his aim was to rectify the scarcity of recordings available by 1970s British folk stalwart Nic Jones. Jones's label, Trailer, has refused to make his material available on CD, inspiring Mr. Harding to record a tribute to Jones's arrangements and repertoire. Ironically, when Trad Arr Jones was originally released by Zero Hour in 1999, it immediately became impossible to find after the label went out of business. Appleseed's re-release is remastered and contains four new tracks, prompted by Nic Jones himself. Apparently upon hearing the tribute album, Jones was surprised that a rock performer such as Harding would record such faithful un-rocking versions of his material. The four new tracks are performed by the Harding-fronted electric folk-rock outfit the Minstrel in the Gallery, kicking the energy level up a notch. Although both the acoustic and electric material was recorded in Seattle by Fastback Kurt Bloch, the original acoustic renditions are the more moving, highlighting the stunning beauty of melodies like "Little Musgrave," "The Bonny Bunch of Roses" and "Master Kilby." "Master Kilby" also finds its way onto the first solo recording by Alasdair Roberts, best know for his work with the Scottish folk-rock band Appendix Out. Roberts brings together a collection of old Irish, Scottish and English songs and likewise performs them with a traditional sparse acoustic set up. Roberts' expressive and yearning vocals suit the material perfectly and his selection of songs is stellar. History has found many artists returning to the deep and beautiful well of British folk music for inspiration, be it Fairport Convention's progressive rock from the '60s, Nick Drake's melancholy material of '70s or '90s indie rock sweethearts Belle and Sebastian. Harding and Roberts, however, have chosen to pay direct homage to the source material and succeed in creating recordings as surprisingly timeless as these aged songs (Secretly Canadian)