No Earthly Man

Scot Alasdair Roberts has released three excellent albums as Appendix Out and two under his own name, his spectral folk drawing comparisons with fellow travellers such as Will Oldham. Although original works, Roberts’s records have been infused with the enduring melodies and lyrical twists of ancient folk music. It’s no surprise, then, to find him unearthing traditional songs, complete with Child, Laws and Roud index numbers, in the company of Americans including Oldham and Glaswegians like Isobel Campbell, latterly of Belle and Sebastian. Death is the theme, although none of these songs is particularly dirge-like (even ‘A Lyke Wake Dirge’, which is rather elegiac). Roberts’s reed is sometimes joined by Oldham on backing vocals, but just as important is the fluid instrumentation. ‘The Two Brothers’, for instance, is mesmerising, its unfurling music owing as much, you suspect, to the instinctive grace of the players as to tradition.