Outside My Mind is the second album from London based singer/songwriter Ned Roberts. Recorded in LA in old fashioned style (direct to tape, an attempt to capture the spontaneity of the band in the studio) with producer Luther Russell on drums, electric guitar and piano there’s a spare and intimate feel to the album allowing Roberts’ songs plenty of space to impress. And impressive it is as Roberts turns in a set that is warm and mellow recalling Greenwich Village folkies and their UK counterparts’ bucolic ramblings. Roberts’ voice is closely miked with his slightly nasal delivery reminiscent of James Taylor at times, his acoustic guitar playing ripples like a rustic stream and his harmonica wheezes just like Dylan’s did. While the album does evoke hazy memories of sixties troubadours Roberts manages to capture the timeless aspect of the best of that oeuvre with Outside My Mind a contemporary album built on solid foundations. In this respect Roberts marks himself as an artist on a par with the excellent (and sorely missed) Hobotalk along with current artists such as Norrie McCulloch and Blue Rose Code.
It’s apparent from the opening song that Roberts is plucking from the branches of the fruitful sixties as Drifting Down tumbles slowly (and wonderfully) along lines set down by the likes of Bert Jansch and early Fairport Convention with Russell’s curled guitar in particular recalling very early Richard Thompson. Through The Arches rolls along in a similar vein with Russell’s piano and skittering drums evoking the jazzy folk feel that was Joe Boyd’s trademark. The title song (which closes the album) revisits this sound with Jason Hiller’s bass playing here rumbling throughout the song in a manner that I’m sure Danny Thompson would approve of. Elsewhere Roberts mirrors the genius that was Tim Hardin on Letter Home with its doomed romanticism and delicate string arrangement while Lights On The River is borne aloft on a soulful organ groove with Roberts here sounding like Dylan circa Self Portrait and the band sounding like, well, The Band.
Lyrically the album is a collection of love songs which, in the main, are melancholic, wistful recollections, hopeful murmurings with nature often invoked. Rivers and rushing waters, snow and rain, coats held tightly against a breeze the backdrop for Roberts’ musings. The whole is a wonderful collection of late night listening delight as the vocals and arrangements wash over a tired but soon to be satisfied mind.
Prior to his album launch on 29th March Ned Roberts is playing a few gigs in the UK including one at the Fallen Angels Club on Tuesday 21st March at The Admiral Bar and an Edinburgh show the following night at The Leith Depot.