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Alasdair Roberts | The Crook of My Arm (Secretly Canadian)
Though Appendix Out has always been essentially a one man venture, this is the first time Ali Roberts has seen fit to release a record under his given name. It is also his first full-length release on Secretly Canadian. The Crook of My Arm is a collection of acoustic interpretations of traditional British folk songs and as such is very much a labour of love. Ali's upbringing was rooted in Scottish folk music; his father was a traditional musician who played with Dougie Maclean, and their family home as a kid was a safe haven for wandering folk singers such as Alex Campbell (whom he covers here). Though the unhelpful (but beautiful) sleeve does list the artists whom he covers (Nic Jones, Shirley Collins, Dick Gaughan etc), it does not say which song is by which author, so for the purposes of this review I will hazard a guess using my extensive knowledge of traditional song! The opener Lord Gregory sets the tone for most of the record; songs of doomed lovers, family feuds and murder. The Gregory in question here has (I think) fathered a child by the protagonist of the song, and is now refusing to help her out. On The False Bride, the roles are reversed - this time the woman being the villain of the piece - a smitten chap being led on by a loose lady, which ends in his suicide. The record is not all doom and gloom - some of the songs are playful and even funny - Ploughboy Lads is basically about the girls eyeing up the farmers in the fields, and The Magpies Nest, - which I think is derived from the singing of Anne Briggs - is a sweet, pretty love song. The Crook of My Arm is a fantastic record. At points the playing is so quiet it is barely there, and the singing is his best yet. It also serves as a primer for those who are americana-ed out and are perhaps wanting to sample some of their own cultural heritage for a change.

James Hindle
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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