Posted on January 20th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Casey Bauer

Strap an acoustic guitar to a man’s chest, color his vocals with a foreign accent, and it’s hard not to love him. Luckily, Alasdair Roberts has both of these qualities going for him. Unfortunately, these qualities don’t always result in an interesting album.

Hailing from Scotland, Alasdair Roberts grew up in a musical family and has been with Drag City Records since 1997. His Gaelic heritage (obvious in the way certain vowels skew unexpectedly) is not only something the singer-songwriter takes pride in, but is something he draws a lot of inspiration from. A large part of his repertoire is based on traditional Scottish folk songs and he is very frequently found collaborating with other Scottish artists and contributing his talents to folk plays and films.

Alasdair Roberts is the second solo album from the artist, and he goes for a stripped down, barren soundscape. Relying on his lyrical guitar and vocals to carry each song, the album has very little variance or anything particularly grabbing.

“Artless One” features a plucked guitar, bass clarinet, a whistle, and a chorus "oohing" and "ahhing" in the background, making it one of the more full sounding tracks on the album. Similar to his other songs, Roberts’ upper register waivers, jumping abruptly and unexpectedly, sometimes disappearing entirely amongst the clouds. Particularly in the main lyrical line, “Come my love, my artless one,” Roberts’ nasaly vocals begin to sound a tad like Kermit the frog, and the rest of the song is spent trying to shake that from our minds. Thankfully, the rich voices of the whistle and bass clarinet resonate beautifully against Roberts’ idiosyncratic vocals, and we relish in their warmth.

The rest of the album is mostly the same tempo and features a very similar structure, in that the primary focus is typically the vocals. The guitar finds a few quarter notes and eighth notes to chime in on and hold the tempo together, but is more often than not masked by the lyrics. Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, every track circles a focal point but never quite settles, making them difficult to sing along to or even remember. Typically, the lyrics are the focal point of traditional folk songs since their main purpose was to pass down stories and customs. This is a solo album with all original songs, but Roberts still manages to sound as if he’s singing old, traditional songs which follow a structure and style that just isn’t wholly his. Instead, we’re subjected to songs like “The Problem of Freedom” and “In Dispraise of Hunger,” which are blurry hazes of wandering stories over the top of a meandering guitar.

Ultimately, this makes for a lackluster song structure which loses the listener's interest. At the end of each song, we simply forget how the song sounded. Not to mention that the whole album is roughly the same tempo with the same vocal inflection throughout. It’s kind of like listening to the National Anthem or someone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with a guitar; it’s something we can take pride in and appreciate the beauty of, but it’s just painfully boring.

Track List:

  1. The Way Unfavoured
  2. Honour Song
  3. The Problem of Freedom
  4. Artless One
  5. Hurricane Brown
  6. The Final Diviner
  7. In Dispraise of Hunger
  8. The Mossy Shrine
  9. This Uneven Thing
  10. Roomful of Relics
Alasdair Roberts - Alasdair Roberts Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

55 / 100
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