Call it archaic indie if you want, but Alasdair Roberts’ Farewell Sorrow continues his long line of brilliant Scottish traditional-informed music. Sonically, this album falls somewhere in between Roberts’ collection of sparse traditional songs The Crook of My Arm and Daylight Saving, released under the Appendix Out moniker. Unlike the latter album, Farewell Sorrow has neither the ambient electronic psychedelia nor woodwind accompaniment, but these exclusions provide a wider focus on the classical arrangements of the music and Roberts’ greatest strength: his wonderful voice. His anachronistic, Old English lyric phrasing slips flawlessly through his creaking, world-weary Scottish brogue.
See, for example, “Join Our Lusty Chorus”: “Gamekeeper, gamekeeper, spare me my life / though I bagged a brace of fine hare in your forest / for I’m pledged to a girl who will soon be my wife / link arms and join our lusty chorus.” In anyone else’s hands these lines would come off as little more than ideal music for a Wiccan prom, but Roberts has the power to write songs that sound timeless and contemporary simultaneously, without sacrificing an ounce of believability. I’ll be hard pressed to find an album that tops this one before year’s end. Truly incredible.