Trust Alasdair Roberts to hit us with something new that bears the name of one of the oldest kingdoms in pre-Christendom! Ali's immersive exploration of traditional ballads is not rightly new - see 2005's No Earthly Man and 2010's Too Long In This Condition for other masterful entries in this category - but his possession of the ancient songs always comes with a deft, modern twist. This is at least part of what makes What News such refreshingly contemporaneous listening. Collaborating with Concerto Caledonia director David McGuinness and sonologist Amble Skuse, Alasdair has found the ability to locate the axis of the old songs, and still make them sound fresh and dynamic for the new century.
This is evident on "Babylon", a song originally anthologized by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century under the title "The Bonnie Banks o' Fordie". It is a variant of a sung-tale found in many versions across Scandanavia and into Scotland: a wandering robber accosts and murders two sisters, leaving the third to inadvertantly reveal his name to him: Babylon, their missing brother. His suicide, and the song's soft conclusion, follows. The version found here is indebted to the late Aberdeenshire singer and storyteller Stanley Robertson - but David McGuinness' masterful playing of a "Mozart-style" fortepiano manifests spellbinding urgency under Alasdair's rendition of the tale. With added sonic glimmer from Amble's electronics generating something between birdsong and the blur of tuner-dial static, "Babylon" compels the singing of Alasdair Roberts to previously unheard performative heights in his ever-evolving catalog of song.
ALI ROBERTS ON TOUR:
3/13/18 at Centro Cívico Delicias (Bombo y Platillo) in Zaragoza, Spain*
3/14/18 at Encontres in Castellon, Spain*
3/15/18 at Centro Cultural Galileo in Madrid, Spain * (free show)
3/16/18 at Asociación UAW/MF in Leon, Spain *
3/17/18 at Currunchos Pop in Carballo, Spain *
3/27/18 at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow, United Kingdom - What News release party, w/Amble Skuse and David McGuinness
4/14/18 at The Wanstead Tap in London, United Kingdom *
4/21/18 at Nalen in Stockholm, Sweden With Current 93 (as part of Current 93 and solo set)
5/5/18 at High Forest Community Centre in Sinderhope, United Kingdom *
9/14/18 at Campfire Club in London, United Kingdom *