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07In Dispraise Of Hunger
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Songs We Love: Alasdair Roberts, 'In Dispraise Of Hunger'

Songs We Love: Alasdair Roberts, 'In Dispraise Of Hunger'

07In Dispraise Of Hunger
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Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts will release a new self-titled album on Jan. 27. i

Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts will release a new self-titled album on Jan. 27. Drew Farrell/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Drew Farrell/Courtesy of the artist
Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts will release a new self-titled album on Jan. 27.

Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts will release a new self-titled album on Jan. 27.

Drew Farrell/Courtesy of the artist

Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Alasdair Roberts Tracklist

  1. "The Way Unfavoured"
  2. "Honour Song"
  3. "The Problem Of Freedom"
  4. "Artless One"
  5. "Hurricane Brown"
  6. "The Final Diviner"
  7. "In Dispraise Of Hunger"
  8. "The Mossy Shrine"
  9. "This Uneven Thing"
  10. "Roomful Of Relics"

I can't think of a master musician more out of sync with contemporary culture than Alasdair Roberts. The Scottish singer and guitarist tills Albion's millennium of traditional songcraft to express ancient emotions — usually with just the aid of an acoustic guitar, but occasionally with ornate instrumentation like oboes or clarinets. When he's not giving voice to aural heirlooms, he's writing songs in a similar tradition; music that could be described as British folk, but that conjures an even earlier time than Anne Briggs or Fairport Convention ever did.

If you're unfamiliar with Roberts' work, track down his 2007 album The Amber Gatherers. In a year that birthed major releases by LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A. and Panda Bear, it was my favorite of the bunch. His upcoming self-titled record isn't exactly chopped haggis, either, and features several serpentine songs that take weeks to surrender their charm. It's been a transporting subway companion over the past month, and the song that I keep returning to is "In Dispraise Of Hunger."

In some ways, the song is the least complicated of Roberts' new batch. It's essentially a hymn about a farming community's dark days between Christmas and the following year's harvest. "We will sing a song in dispraise of hunger," he bellows, "Of the belly and of the soul." As a choir rises up behind Roberts to lament the lean times, you can hear hundreds of Scots spanning hundreds of years, all singing a similar tune. Funny how something so universal can feel so out of time.

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