Alasdair Roberts & Friends -‘A Wonder Working Stone.’ (Drag City)
Scottish singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts may be viewed (erroneously) as a somewhat funereal folkie, but by and large, his latest album is quite an uplifting affair. He very much works in a folk tradition, and it’s fair to say that whilst there are no shortages of artists north of the border who produce music that is indebted to folk traditions, his music has far more in common with artists like Kate Rusby, Karine Polwart and Eliza Carthy, say, than many members of the Fence Collective. This is folk music, not folk rock, or God helps us, ‘folk-tronica.’
He writes his own material as well as drawing upon traditional songs, and that is what adds strength to this collection of songs, that he understands the strengths of the tradition(s) he works within, without this being an exercise is simply recycling. He avoids sounding twee-and reigns himself in whenever there is a danger of slipping into folk pastiche, which threatens to happen on album opener ‘The Merry Wake’ but thankfully doesn’t. His guitar work is as evocative as his lyrics, and if at first I wasn’t so sure if I got this record, it unfolds its charms with every listen.
Indeed, a wonder.
A Wonder Working Stone is released on Drag City on January 21.