From The Reels is a collection of hitherto unreleased outtakes from Ned Roberts’ previous three albums and sessions with LA-based producer Luther Russell, released as is without any tweaks or additions, they and their intimate feel serve to further bolster the London-based singer-songwriter’s burgeoning career. The accompanying blurb offers no detailed indication as to from which sessions the individual songs came, but that’s fairly irrelevant given they hang together as cohesive whole.
Opening unaccompanied before the fingerpicked guitar arrives, dating from 2017’s Outside My Mind, ‘Ring of Stones’ is a warm and reflective song of self-encouragement, followed by the melancholic end of a romance ‘Held On As Long As We Could’ from the same year and, from there, the nimbly picked, harmonica accompanied and early Dylan-inflected ‘Dark Brown Eyes’ (from the debut album sessions), the melody based on ‘Barbara Allen’.
Joe Harvey-Whyte on yearning pedal steel, the alternate percussion-free, take of ‘Slower Than The Sea’ from 2020’s Dream Sweetheart keeps the mood grained with introspection and a languid hurt while, picking up the pace and with Noah Hatfield on cello ‘Bound To Fall’ is a light pastoral late 60s folk sounding number that conjures thoughts of Jackson C Frank and Eric Andersen. ‘Down In Lines’ tracks a familiar thoughts far from home rumination while ‘The Wrong Side Of You’ is a pared down, wistful New York recording by Luke Rathbone of the friskier original on last year’s album.
Harmonica returning and again from the debut sessions, ‘Old Folk Song’ is perhaps cheekily titled given the tune leans on ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, the album closing with, first, Luther Russell on piano, Jason Hiller on double bass and Eli Pearl on pedal steel, the echoey-sung ‘The Drinker’, an impromptu end of session story-song jam about a lonely girl in a bar that again draws on those late 60s Greenwich Village folk-troubadour influences, and, lastly, again nodding to the previous album, a live version of ‘The Songbird’, again featuring Harvey-Whyte, with its lyrics of love and loss.
During the current climate, many an artist has been sorting through the shelves for unreleased material or revisiting songs in a stripped back lockdown variation, few, however, have succeeded in producing something quite as coherent and beguiling as this.
Artist’s website: www.nedroberts
‘The Songbird’ – original version/official video: