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By Lees, Alasdair | The Independent (London, England), April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Lees, Alasdair, The Independent (London, England)


ALASDAIR ROBERTS Purcell Room LONDON ****

In a world where musicians rush to lay bare the secrets of their songs on blogs, and continually mine the same historical sources - the Sixties, the Eighties - for inspiration, the Scottish folk singer Alasdair Roberts is an anomaly. His appropriation of antique songs calls to mind the prospecting of Daniel Day-Lewis's oilman in There Will Be Blood: he performs the subterranean, hardscrabble toil of research, then plunges his drill down deep, coming back with black gold.

And it is black. Roberts has confessed to being so "troubled and depressed" by these ancient death ballads that he has to record them so that he can get on with writing his own material. That his own songs are as dark and deeply odd as the Elizabethan ballads makes you worry for his mental health.

Roberts himself is everything you might expect from a singer who cites Roland Barthes's essay "Death of the Author" in relation to his performing style. Dressed in red shirt and blue jeans, he's self- effacing and boyishly artless. "I'm just going to go and locate my cable," he mutters after walking on stage and finding that he can't plug in his acoustic guitar.

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