Alasdair Roberts

The Crook of My Arm

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The singer from Scotland's Appendix Out sits down and puts his heart into a series of traditional folk songs. The result is a beautiful, intimate thing, as Alasdair Robert's plaintive voice cries out, yet stays restrained from any histrionics or any unwarranted interpretations. It's a remarkable thing, that voice -- completely understated, yet filled with sadness and longing. Roberts takes the traditional route, leaving the roots-soaked indie rock sound of his band behind and delivering an album that is a tribute to the traditional songs of the past with no trappings of the present. Given the simple guitar work and the strength of the songs themselves, it's easy to get caught up in the sheer and humbling pastoral grandeur of some of these tracks. "Lord Gregory" is delivered with a mournful, strident vocal, as is the heartbreaking "The Magpie's Nest" (originally popularized by Shirley Collins). Song after song, from "Lowlands" to "The False Bride," Roberts' strengths lie in his simple song adaptations and haunted storytelling. With an album like this, it's hard to tell if it's the vessel or the message that is actually more effective -- but ultimately one needs the other to be heard and to succeed in evoking emotions from the listener. Which this album does extremely well.

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