David Ian Roberts – From the Harbour
(Review by Stephen Nottingham)
In the future, will we look back at the music of 2020 and discuss an artist’s ‘lockdown record’? A case in point may be David Ian Roberts’ sublime new album ‘From The Harbour’, his third release on Cambrian Records following last year’s acclaimed ‘Travelling Bright’ and his 2014 debut ‘St Clears’.
With recording studios closed, he recorded the album at his Cardiff home between March and May 2020 as, he says, a necessary creative outlet at this strange time.
The sound palette of the record was influenced by the instruments he had available at home: acoustic, electric and 12 string guitars, piano, cello, percussion and bass. Roberts plays all these to great effect over the album’s nine tracks, weaving them into his own distinct musical fabric.
Intricate arrangements, introspective vocals and delicate fingerpicking suffuse the album. The influences here are the likes of Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, John Martyn, and the long and winding pastoral strand of British folk music.
The music journeys from timeless landscapes to the cosmic realm, and back. In the first of two instrumentals, guitars, piano and gong-like percussion progress through a heat haze in ‘Red Desert’ toward the sounds of home; in the second, piano and electric guitar lead an exploration of ‘Distant Planets’.
The songs’ narrators travel slowly and purposefully: “Won’t you come, walk with me, to a golden place… staying strong, keeping time…” (‘Hold The Line’). ‘Walker’ and ‘Dream A Fallen’ offer visions of a coming hazy summer and night skies, and feature some exquisite guitar playing.
The album title, ‘From The Harbour’, is taken from the lyrics of closing track ‘Took My Time’, a song he says is about feeling a kind of contented patience: “It seemed to sum up some of the themes of the album and encapsulates the feeling of being at home, looking out on the world, and looking forward to getting back out there.”
The lockdown aesthetic continues in the artwork for the album cover, an abstract landscape Roberts painted at home, that resonates with the musical themes.
This record is balm for the soul and is available to download in digital format on 7 August 2020. It would be good to pick up a vinyl or CD copy at a later date, hopefully on a merch stall at a gig when we can all come together again to listen to live music.