On 2005's No Earthly Man
, Scottish singer/songwriter Alasdair Roberts offered up eight traditional ballads with minimal accompaniment. That he pulled it off without nailing the listeners eyes shut within the first two minutes is a testament to both his gift as an interpreter, and his reedy, yet impossibly fluid and melodious voice. On the Amber Gatherers
, Roberts balances regional folk songs with his own self-penned odes to heartache, death and drink, successfully blurring the line between the two like a young Nic Jones
or Martin Carthy
. A full band is employed this time around, and their lightly brushed drums, fingerpicked guitars, accordions, and backing vocals wrap themselves around Roberts' careful phrasing like a winter coat. Standout tracks such as "I Had a Kiss of the King's Hand," "Cruel War" and "Old Men of the Shells" sound like lost cuts from the late-'60s and early-'70s British folk heydays, and a hand-drawn map of the U.K. with songtitles for cities, as well as a handy tuning chart that explains where to capo your guitar for each song, gives the whole affair a rustic, communal vibe that manages to avoid feeling contrived.