Ok, first up, a quick lesson in Greek mythology. Daemons were benevolent or benign nature spirits, a mixture of mortals and ghosts and often seen as forces of nature, whereas an eidolon was a spirit image or phantom embodiment in human form of either a living or dead person.
Right, now Alex Roberts. Born in Dorset and now based near Thornicombe, he started playing guitar about 25 years ago, since when he’s built a considerable reputation, especially for his use of the lap-steel Hawaiian style Weissenborn guitar. As well as releasing five albums since 2010 he has also worked with celebrated fiddle player Anna-Wendy Stevenson and on Billy Bragg’s Jail Guitar Doors, a campaign to provide musical instruments to prison inmates in support of rehabilitation through music.
The Daemon & The Eidolon is his sixth album and underscores his immersion in the sound of traditional English folk-blues and prime influences John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and, to judge from Zara, a strong dose of John Martyn. With Roberts also playing bouzouki and dulcimer, Graeme Ross accompanying on double bass and James Pinnock and Neil Shervalle providing percussion, it’s a moody affair that, opening with a variation of the Child Ballad, The Demon Lover, combines both trad and self-penned numbers addressing “the duality of the inner journey to truth and love and the outward journey of deceit and loss.”
There’s three other traditional folk music tunes, taking in a six and a half minute variation of Cold Blows The Wind, another Child ballad derivation perhaps better known as The Unquiet Grave, followed by a self-penned mid-tempo jazzy arrangement of Jack of Diamond, Roberts’ throaty rasp accompanied by fretboard slap percussion, harmonica (courtesy Si Genaro) and fingerpicked acoustic. Once covered by Pentangle, the traditional Watch The Stars has a similar sound and groove, indeed splice them together and you’d be hard put to notice the join.
A similar warm, lazing feel and delivery permeates Sister, another self-penned song, which, along with the remaining tracks, bringing together blues, folk and jazzy elements. The wearily swaying Percival (which may be father/son themed, but certainly seems to be about younger/older man passing of wisdom) relies more on a circling acoustic Weissenborn guitar pattern and harmonica for an evocation of mellow early Dylan, while Strong Of Grace features groaning double bass behind a persistent repeated handful of glacial, watery notes with Roberts voice soaring to falsetto on the title line.
The album comes to a close with, first, the six minute The Story Never Changes, opening on simple, unadorned Weissenborn before harmonica enters and the tempo rises to a bluesier and rowdier climax, followed by the title cut, an acoustic fingerpicked instrumental that illustrates just why he’s held in such esteem. Haunting indeed.
Review by: Mike Davies