Alasdair Roberts & Friends: A Wonder Working Stone
A Wonder Working Stone is the seventh album that Glasgow-based singer, guitarist and songwriter Alasdair Roberts has released since his 2001 debut. Last year’s Urstan found him duetting in Gaelic with singer Mairi Morrison in traditional songs from the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides.
In contrast, these ten epic, cleverly sequenced, episodic original songs draw on well known American, English and Scottish traditional tunes. He also returns to singing in English, which he delivers with an unmistakeable and very listenable, yelping brogue. Even when reflecting the influence of English folk-rock icons Steeleye Span, his music sounds Scottish. The lyrics are wonderfully poetic and full of droll wordplay.
The songs are shot through with luminous images of the natural world, and this album amounts to an extended love song to his native land – ‘my Caledonia/ You land of heather, mountain, loch and sea… this one’s for thee’. Whether stitching together folkloric tunes, or composing his own, he has a canny way with melody.
The big question is how he has managed to cram so much magical, mysterious art into just over an hour. Albums this brilliant do not get made every year.