Live at the Victoria Inn, Colchester (Feb 2020)
Exciting, Intriguing and Very Intimate Contemporay Folk Music.
I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s an age thing, or a rare side effect from the AstraZeneca anti-Covid jab; but I’m being drawn to Folk Music at the moment.
Mercifully not the ‘finger in the ear’ type about fair maidens and flagons of ale; but rather some really exciting and innovative music by the likes of Alex Roberts.
This is his ninth album and because I don’t move in the same circles, I’d never heard of him before he sent me a very polite e-mail a few weeks back about this release; but I’ve had a couple of days when this is all I’ve played at home.
For a Live Album recorded in a pub; the sound quality is exceptional; adding a warm texture to Robert’s well rounded and expressive voice, but oddly making his acoustic guitar playing sound as sharp as a cutthroat razor; right from the opening track Wandering Aengus.
I don’t want to put off my regular readers when I tell you that this is a re-working of a WB Yeats poem; fear not …… this is actually a darkly beautiful tale; accompanied by bouzouki playing so intricate, I swear at least two strings must have become entwined by the end.
Yes; of course this is Folk Music; but the universal kind that you ‘get’ where Alex Roberts is coming from when you hear his plaintive rendering of Leadbelly’s In The Pines …….. woah…… woah and thrice woah; while this is stark and brooding; you can not only hear a pin drop in the room; but I guess the audience were afraid to breathe out for fear of spoiling the hypnotic mood coming from the small stage.
If you’re still not convinced; Roberts’ almost reinvents Richard Thompson’s Modern Classic; Vincent Black Lightning, slowing it down to a snail’s pace which allows each word and note to hover above you before fading into the ether.
Strangely with those two songs here it’s actually Alex’s own songs that are why this is album is worth taking a punt on.
Love Too Strong is exactly what you would hope a song of that title would suggest; only better; and the oddly titled Petrichor is just as quietly stunning even if you weren’t to know that it is a love song to the singer’s wife.
Personally I love the way Robert’s generally doesn’t start singing straight away on his songs; allowing his dexterity on the guitar enough room to guide you towards the words like a flickering candle; nowhere better than the biting Carry Me and The Pyramid too.
Even though this is a Live Album, most of the extraneous bits have been edited out; leaving the music to have the frisson of a live setting; but no boring whooping and wailing to get in the way of future plays.
Now; selecting a Favourite Song has been difficult; as so much here is well worthy of your valuable time; yet easy as who among us doesn’t like a song about a Peregrine Falcon?
Seriously I was smitten with Hacking Back to The Wild the first time I heard it; not realising what the subject matter was. But; the more I’ve heard it it, the more this particularly moving song has stayed with me.
It’s songs like this one which leave me standing in awe at the skill and imagination that musicians have and use to paint pictures with words and music alone, in a way I can’t even dream about, especially when they are as delicate as the instrumental, Durdle Door.
For the uninitiated like myself Alex Roberts comes from the school of Folk musicians that spawned John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch and arguably; the young Tom Waits and that’s not too much of a stretch; trust me.
Released April 20th 2021
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