t’s fitting to start this blog with a record that pretty much embodies everything I want to write about- a record of limpid beauty which has somehow managed to fall between the two stools it should occupy like thrones, leaving Roberts a virtual unknown in both the indie-rock and folk communities.
‘The Crook of My Arm’, in my opinion his best record, is a collection of traditional ballads, mainly dealing with the theme of love: gained, lost and spurned, and performed by Roberts alone, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar.
If you’re like me your patience for a lot of performers of traditional song is limited- because of the distance in time and lifestyle between the subject matter and the performance it can easily lapse into twee medieval syrup. To be any more than museum pieces the songs need interpreting in such a way as to drive straight to the universal human heart of the material- and to this end Roberts' understated, pure delivery couldn't be more effective.
Of course, if you're the kind of person who thinks realness means the singer has to have 'been there and done that' you're looking in the wrong place. Roberts isn't a 17th-century shepherdess, or indeed any of the other characters who inhabit this album- but then Johnny Cash never shot a man in Reno.
But of course that's not the point- the point is that when you hear a song like 'Lowlands', you hear real love, and real loss, channeled over the centuries, through the speakers, into your heart.