Now and again I get emails about new groups, asking me to have a listen and post something on the blog. Sometimes they’re good, mostly not. So what a delight when I got this one! Because, in fact, I’d already been a fan of Alasdair Roberts for a couple years now, so getting his latest release sent to my inbox by the producer of the album was definitely a treat. And, as an added bonus, there was a second artist, Wounded Knee, whom I’d never heard of, but who turns out to be curiously delightful. Both of them are taking traditional songs in really interesting, original directions.
Here’s the email:
Two new EPs by outstanding Scottish musicians have just been produced and distributed free online as digital editions by Ayrtime.org
The generous performances are from WIRE magazine darling Alasdair Roberts (Glasgow) and Ediburgh’s innovative WOUNDED KNEE!
You can download the Roberts E.P. here :- http://www.ayrtime.org/roberts.html
And Wounded Knee here http://www.ayrtime.org/knee.html
Both EPs were recorded in the last five weeks and are produced by Ayr based artist Chris Dooks.
Please freely and legally distribute this email.
For press enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy and post them to your profile and join us on facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ayrtime/270733884840?ref=ts
– Chris Dooks
Scottish songwriter Alasdair Roberts’ career as a recording artist sprung into a critically lauded, cult-praised profession when a demo he made with his group Appendix Out found its way into the hands of intimate nouveau folkie Will Oldham. Oldham identified with Appendix Out’s similarly calculated sound enough that he released their first recording, the 7″ titled Ice Age/Pissed with You, on his own Palace Records label in 1996. The momentum from this release’s affiliation with Oldham sparked not only a series of split 7″ releases (with the likes of Songs: Ohia and Policecat), but also to a recording contract with credible Chicago indie label Drag City. After Appendix Out’s third release for the label, released in February 2001, Roberts immediately recorded and released his first solo album, released on Secretly Canadian and titled The Crook of My Arm. While his output with Appendix Out always referenced the influences of folksingers such as Alex Campbell and Shirley Collins, The Crook of My Arm embraced them via sparse readings of 12 traditional numbers with Roberts only accompanied by his acoustic guitar. For his third release of 2001, Roberts teamed up with Oldham and songwriter Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia under the moniker Amalgamated Sons of Rest, and the three contributed and backed up each other’s songs. In 2002, Roberts returned his attention to Appendix Out for the EP A Warm and Yeasty Corner, a handful of well-chosen covers that appear oddly side by side, including a tribute to British folk cult artist Vashti Bunyan with her tune “Window Over the Bay” and a tip of the hat to the Magnetic Fields by way of “Josephine.” Roberts followed this a year later with his second solo release, Farewell Sorrow, which garnered more critical acclaim and showcased the development of his songwriting growing tendrils around the roots of the British and Scottish folk traditions. The stark and beautiful No Earthly Man arrived in 2005, followed by the more band-oriented Amber Gatherers in 2007.
Personally, I don’t think comparisons with Oldham and Molina do him justice. While he shares their emotional directness, his instrumental artistry is much better. I’d say a comparison to Bert Jansch would be more apt, to elucidate his introverted honesty and crisply brilliant guitarwork. Give it a listen, anyway!