The Crook of My Arm (Secretly Canadian), Alasdair Roberts's first solo album, is an explicit statement of the love of British folk music that permeates his work in Appendix Out: it's a collection of trad English, Irish, and Scottish tunes he learned from the likes of Shirley Collins, Anne Briggs, Dick Gaughan, and Nic Jones. The young Glaswegian isn't as starkly mannered as his idols; instead, like kindred spirit Will Oldham, he projects a vulnerable intimacy that's equally powerful. But compared to both this haunting endeavor and the group's previous work, the third Appendix Out album, The Night Is Advancing (Drag City), sounds positively extroverted. The music is still dark, dominated by swirling guitar arpeggios and Roberts's voice, but this time out it's decorated with carefully deployed violin, dulcimer, clarinet, bagpipes, and, on "Campfire's Burning (Round)," stunning contrapuntal harmonies. For the first time the group appears to truly understand the power of dynamics: "Hexen in the Anticyclone" rides a swell of plucked acoustic guitar and organ, while "Fortified Jackdaw Grove" spends six minutes building a beautifully ornamented near-drone that's resolved in an exquisitely tense overlay of drumming. This appearance, opening for Edith Frost, will be the band's only U.S. date this year. Friday, September 7, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rikke Iversholt.