For his twelfth solo album, What News, and his fourth album focused exclusively on the performance of traditional songs, Alasdair Roberts has chosen a typically unusual and eclectic pair of collaborators: Amble Skuse and David Mcguinnes. On past albums No Earthly Man and Too Long In this Condition, Alasdair relied on his deep connection to the songs to anchor often exploratory arrangements that would locate the hundreds-years-old songs in a contemporary milieu. The resulting works are magnetically compelling and have been powerfully acclaimed down the years.
For his first project in this vein since 2010, Alasdair was inspired by Scottish singers such as Jeannie Robertson, Lizzie Higgins, Duncan Williamson, Elizabeth Stewart and Sheila Stewart. He had a desire to sing and not so much to play, so he asked early music scholar and Concerto Caledonia director David McGuinness (a previous collaborator) to play keyboard accompaniment for these songs, upon which Alasdair would not be playing guitar. During the process of developing the arrangements, David hit upon an idea for an additional collaborator: sonologist Amble Skuse, whose work involves interactive, electronic performance treatments. This provided a third plane for the project, and thus triangulated, they were able to crystallize an approach involving a very open soundstage: David's keyboard, Alasdair's vocals and Amble's structural soundscaping.
What News stands artifacts of history in the unclear light of our modern day for us to compare and contrast. As always, it is shocking and delightful musical entertainment.