Sending Out Fires is the second release from David Ian Roberts, this time on the Cambrian Records label, and comprises studio productions of two songs, a live performance of a third and a studio recorded instrumental. Intended, perhaps, as a showcase for his considerable talents, I have to say that it convinced me.
The opening , and title track, grabs your attention with a cascade of paired harmonics set against a simple rising fretted line and sparse percussion which makes the whole thing seem irrepressibly upbeat. If, like me, you hadn’t come across Roberts before then his voice is a delightful surprise. Quiet, understated and somehow reminiscent of Robert Wyatt it offers a contrast to the inherent bounce of the intro. Then you realise he’s singing almost, but not quite, the same line supported by more delicate guitar and cello continuo. Here be intelligent music…which sounds better every time you listen to it. I presume, even in these days of right hand fretting, that the track is layered but the production is never intrusive.
Carillon which follows is the album’s instrumental. Built upon an extended melodic line on the guitar which moves from the middle register to the treble, via a strummed, dulicimer-ish section, is then handed to the cello who gives it back to the guitar to finish the tune back where it started in the mids. Hugely enjoyable.
Grail, is a live performance (which recently premiered on FRUK) by a trio comprising Roberts with Aidan Thorne on bass and Kirstie Miller on cello. The song is haunting and ballad like, driven by a delicate guitar which made me think of bands from my student days such as Fotheringay or early Magna Carta.
The closing track, Slow Gold, is another studio production showcasing Roberts gentle voice over subtly layered instruments…I only noticed the Hammond at the very end. The song has something of the radio friendly set-closer about it, particularly in its fine repeated lyric refrain ‘when all the world burns like quicksilver, you’re my slow gold’. I hope I have quoted this accurately, which brings me to my one mild criticism. Roberts’ lyrics are interesting, a long way from moon and June, but the mix sometimes made it difficult to make them out. Maybe it’s my ageing ears, maybe not but I really would have liked to have had access to a lyric sheet. Perhaps it’s a generational thing but I miss details such as lyrics, who played what etc, particularly when the music I’m listening to offers a degree of complexity.
When I first got the download of Sending Out Fires I wasn’t too sure what to make of it. The more I listened, the more I realised I was listening to the work of a fine guitarist and singer/songwriter with a gift for melody and blessed with an ability to make music which is both thoughtful and engaging.
Sending Out Fires is released on 24th May via Cambrian Records. Pre-Order via Bandcamp here.
David is on tour with Toby Hay (also founder of Cambrian Records) in May and June, and at this years Green Man Festival, with more dates in the Autumn. Details below:
20th May: The Courtyard Theatre – Hereford
25th May: The Folk Room – London
27th May: Hermon Chapel – Oswesrty
28th May: How The Light Gets In – Hay-on-Wye
31st May: Gwdihw – Cardiff
4th June: St Harmon Church – Powys
8th June: Leaf – Liverpool
11th June: North Wales TBC
18th June: Radnor Fringe Festival