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No Earthly Man

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Album Review

Scottish singer/songwriter Alasdair Roberts has been quietly resurrecting the organic British folk of late-'60s and early-'70s traditionalists like Planxty and Dick Gaughan since his 1996 debut with the rural-folk combo Appendix Out. Like his American counterpart and frequent collaborator Will Oldham, his songs belong in neither the past nor the present, rather they cling to the listener like the ghosts of a sepia-toned future. On the quietly electrifying No Earthly Man, Roberts takes on eight classic murder ballads from the British Isles with dizzying results. Unlike Oldham, Roberts can actually sing, and it's his fluid and affecting tenor that makes each one of these brutal and long-winded tales of love, treachery and death so listenable. This is "old-school" British folk in the vein of Steeleye Span's Parcel of Rogues — Oldham's warm production relies heavily on a combination of cello, percussion, guitar, fiddle, harp, dulcimer and the occasional synth — that despite its bloody subject matter manages to engage on multiple emotional levels. For every moody cut, like the fratricide ballad "Two Brothers," there's an "Admiral Cole," a shipwreck tale that's positively lilting. Roberts and Oldham keep things loose and contemporary with off-key harmonicas and random bursts of guitar feedback, but the effect never comes off as anything less then authentic. No Earthly Man mimics the best of the genre as well as it updates it, resulting in an overall sensation of sitting in a darkened theater listening to the aforementioned Planxty's "Well Below the Valley" set against the closing credits of a Wicker Man remake.

Customer Reviews

Folking Great

I've only just discovered Alasdair Roberts and it's probably true to say that if you really really hate folk then this isn't going to convert you but if, like me, you've been turned by listening to way too much of Will Oldham's output over the past few years and have reached that stage in life where a fine tune sung properly sounds like a good idea then look no further. Such a beautiful voice that really expresses the melancholic lyrics. It is physically impossible to listen to this and not find yourself transported to the Scottish glens and highlands.


Anyone dismissing folk music as trite or twee should take a long hard listen to this.

With a body count higher than most gangsta rap albums this rather magnificent slice of goth-folk takes in some of the darkest songs from the British Isles' catalogue of traditional song from the near-cliched 'Sweet William'(girl seeks lost lost who's drowned at sea) to the the coal-black 'Cruel Mother'(infanticide) and 'Two Brothers'(fratricide) the closing 'Lyke Wake Dirge almost comes as lightweight.

Mesmeric, intense and outstanding.
Albums about death shouldn' t make you feel so alive.


Born: Swabia, Germany

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Scottish songwriter Alasdair Roberts' career as a recording artist sprang into a critically lauded, cult-praised profession when a demo he made with his group Appendix Out found its way into the hands of intimate nouveau folkie Will Oldham. Oldham identified with Appendix Out's similarly calculated sound enough that he released their first recording, the 7" titled Ice Age/Pissed with You, on his own Palace Records label in 1996. The momentum from this release's affiliation with Oldham sparked not...
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Customer Ratings

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