Alasdair Roberts – The Fiery Margin
Startlingly original and yet somehow a nostalgic comfort in these worrying times, Alasdair Roberts is one of the best we've got
It's incredible to think it's almost 25 years since the teenage Alasdair Roberts handed Will Oldham his demo tape and set in motion a career which has rewarded so much over 13 solo albums.
Roberts has always seen his love and knowledge of traditional folk music as a jumping-off point for creative experimentation and The Fiery Margin is no different as the Scotsman absorbs the 'auld songs' of his native country at the same time as looking further afield for his inspirations.
This might come as a shock if you're one of the many who first came across Roberts performing with just his acoustic guitar, his rich, mellifluous voice and sparse settings evoking the sound and spirit of past centuries.
But listen closer and Roberts' mastery of lush arrangements and his ability to somehow fit in as many syllables as possible into each line combine here with a sense of beautiful balance that's enabled by bassist Stevie Jones and Alex Neilson on percussion who welcome the introduction of sax and pedal steel guitar like old friends.
When Roberts does retreat back to the traditional with the help of violinist Ailbhe nic Oireachtaigh or Neil Sutcliffe's accordian you feel it's with a renewed sense of adventure and ambition rather than a case of resting on one's laurels.
Startlingly original and yet somehow a nostalgic comfort in these worrying times, Roberts is one of the best we've got.
Listen to: Europe, False Flesh, The Stranger With the Scythe