Alasdair Roberts and Friends were deep within the epic song approaches of the widely-acclaimed A Wonder Working Stone (2013) when last heard creating music of such scope. While similarly broad in range, Pangs brings different forms of song-craft and modes of collaboration again. Throughout his career, Alasdair has created an original and personal music from certain traditional song sources (always carefully annotated in the album notes for the listeners’ derivation). His additional contributions to music and lyric bring new meanings, passing the pieces ever forward, as they were passed to him. Anyone im- mersed in the old texts of Child ballads and the narrative and history that they embody might be expected to imbibe in other ancient and sacred materials—and indeed, on occasion, Alasdair has taken care to weave the disparate strands of his far-flung researches and musings into what we can only perceive as a new form of folk song—Syn- cretic Ballads, for want of any other term. And so the Pangs songs variously touch on subjects as diverse as kenosis, couvade and Malthusianism.
Recorded in Ireland with Julie MacLarnon, Pangs finds Alasdair in a power trio beside his long-time musical partners Alex Neilson on drums and Stevie Jones on bass (and he turns his hand to piano and organ too). Along with guests Debbie Armour, Tom Crossley, Rafe Fitzpatrick and Jessica Kerr, they summon up a powerful — and powerfully gorgeous — storm over ten new songs. With “The Angry Laughing God” and “The Downward Road,” Alasdair delivers two of his most driving pieces — one might even call them “rocking”! Following that, he turns around and plays two of his most touching ballads (and our lad’s had a lot of them over the years!) in “Wormwood and Gall” and “Scarce of Fishing”. Additionally, the album is launched with the eponymous track “Pangs” in what we hear to be a remarkable evocation of the 60s and 70s folk-rockers of the British Isles — the electric warriors of Fairport Convention, the Battlefield Band, Planxty, Rich- ard Thompson and so many significant others! Alasdair’s roots run deep and his sound is conversant with the many iterations of the music from the past, but it is simultaneous present and active in our contemporary milieu. This is vitally true of Pangs — the people of today are in dire need of the edification and amusement that Alasdair Roberts brings. Pass the music ever forward!
2 No Dawn Song
3 An Altar in the Glade
4 The Breach
5 The Angry Laughing God
6 Wormwood and Gall
7 The Downward Road
8 Scarce of Fishing
9 Vespers Chime
10 Song of the Marvels
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