Ned Roberts – “Outside My Mind”
For those in search of something a little different, Ned Roberts’ second album, “Outside My Mind”, might be just the thing. Following on from the promise of his eponymous 2014 debut , Roberts continues to evoke the mood of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, albeit with the occasional glance over his shoulder to the less dreamy skies of England.
The opening track “Drifting Down” is beautifully crafted. A considered guitar introduction gives way to clear vocals and engaging lyrics from the outset. Complementing this are an upright piano sound reminiscent of The Band and some sensitive guitar fills, with hints of David Lindley from the early Jackson Browne albums. There is too the sense of a soul drifting when Roberts says “Who am I fooling, it’s not easy to say? I still long for England without the morning rain, it’s the usual way”.
Next is “Through The Arches”, anchored by some cleverly understated drumming. Roberts’ vocal phrasing on this song is impressively smooth.
Echoes of Roger McGuinn?
“Angel Station” is a strong single, with more than a nod to The Byrds in the guitar sound. It also contains lyrics that might be said to encapsulate the dream of Laurel Canyon, “I said why don’t we go somewhere new…meet me tomorrow with all that you need”.
Other highlights include the Springsteen Nebraska-style harmonica and string accompaniment on “Letter Home”, a haunting steel guitar on “Ribbon Of Water” and Hammond organ on “Lights On The River”.
If there is one criticism of this album, it is that in my opinion the instrumentation could on occasion have been fuller without losing any of the sensitivity of the songs.
That said, the overriding feeling you get when listening is that the world dramatically slows down, reverting to a more laid back era. It takes courage and confidence in your craft to buck the trend in the way these songs do and it takes some getting used to as a listener, but it is well worth it in the end. With thoughtful arrangements and production, the listener is drawn in because in addition to the high quality of the song writing you really are afforded the time to hear everything that’s going on. By the end of the album it’s difficult to consider anything more taxing than lying in a hammock. It’s not just Ned Roberts that is outside of his mind. For that, we should thank him.