Music review: Alasdair Roberts, The Hug and Pint, Glasgow

Alasdair Roberts is a musician out of time with a gift for storytelling, writes Fiona Shepherd

Alasdair Roberts, The Hug and Pint, Glasgow ****

With his reedy voice and careful guitar picking, Alasdair Roberts is a musician out of time. His storytelling gifts make it possible to time-and-space travel, flitting from escapades in Anatolia to power plays in what might fairly be dated as days of yore, and sometimes even beyond this earthly realm. And yet this gentle, erudite musician speaks clearly to his peers in the Glasgow indie scene, perhaps moreso than to a traditional folk audience.

Over the last two decades, he has made many friends in a variety of musical scenes, from English folk doyenne Shirley Collins to young(er) Norwegian collective Völvur, but his latest album Grief In the Kitchen and Mirth in the Hall is a new old solo collection of songs gleaned from various Scottish singers of his acquaintance or field recordings by Hamish Henderson, who captured an unnamed singer rendering Young Airly’s account of 17thcentury feuding against a backdrop of the Covenanters’ movement.

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Roberts covered much of the rest of the album across his spellbinding solo set, from the Celtic domesticity of Kilbogie to the US-adopted folk standard Mary Mild, a tale of sexual subjugation which sadly plays recognisably across many eras and cultures. He honoured the olden trend for "ornithological allegory" with The Bonny Moorhen and sang of mythical cows as well as stripped-back and spindly supernatural ballad The Holland Handkerchief, his austere tonecutting through in contrast to the warmth of his anecdotes and his melodious playing.

But there was also room for a handful of his sympathetic originals, including the humble Hymn of Welcome, the fleet-fingered False Flesh and the humour and dynamism of the epic Unyoked Oxen Turn, aka “the no legs song”, which gave rise to an unlikely but jolly audience singalong.

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