Almost two decades into an entertainingly spasmodic career, Alasdair Roberts shows no sign of settling into the well-worn groove of anything approaching a trademark sound. Ostensibly the Scottish troubador is as folk as they come: his keening burr remains a rich and effective calling card, but it's his willingness to fly the flag for centuries of tradition which has made him a unique bridge between the old and the new.
Pangs sees Roberts make another left turn as he rejects the acoustic austerity of his self-titled 2015 release and reconvenes a band, self-deprecatingly referred to as a "power trio" in the album's publicity. The results are certainly a departure for an artist who seems to relish the chance to collaborate and while each of these ten songs is a Roberts original, the lush song craft recalls the golden age of electric folksters like Fairport Convention and Trees, ensuring Roberts' ongoing connection with the past.
Long-time musical partners Alex Neilson and Stevie Jones, along with guests Debbie Armour, Tom Crossley, Rafe Fitzpatrick and Jessica Kerr, contribute some startling and playful arrangements on the likes of The Downward Road and the tile track. A special word too for Julie McLarnon's wonderful production which seems to tease out every hidden melody and weave it wonderfully around Roberts' typically lugubrious vocals.
Listen to: Pangs, The Downward Road