2015. Drag City Records.
The music of Scottish folk musician and folk scholar Alasdair Roberts is as course as heather on the moors. Like rough wool, Roberts’ voice prickles the ear, harsh and buzzy, deep and throaty, but undeniable deeply compelling. Though long inspired by the great epic, bloody ballads of Scotland, his recent music has been all original in nature. Still, these original songs drip with pagan history and old symbolism. His newest album, Alasdair Roberts on Drag City Records, seems more devoted to love songs and songs of humanity than the previous one, A Wonder Working Stone, which is actually my favorite of the two. Hard-picked acoustic guitar, pennywhistle, and rippling minimalist electric guitar lines echo throughout, and as for his voice, the adjective you’ll most come away with is “commanding.” Roberts sings like he’s casting a spell, or invoking a summoning. But he’s a great talent on the scene, one of the few UK folk singers well known in the States, and one of the most visionary folk singers today. Because of his long study of and respect for the tradition, he can write songs that have more weight than you’d expect. They’re heavy and powerful, and creating them from the gossamer of old words is a near-magical talent.