Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk
There’s something refreshingly, disarmingly uncomplicated about Luke Roberts. The first indication of this on his latest album, Sunlit Cross, is the cover photo. With his winter coat, jeans and sneakers, he looks like a shy, unassuming college kid coming to your house to do odd jobs for beer money. The instrumentation and overall execution of Sunlit Cross is also deceptively simple—acoustic-based folk with a smattering of full-band arrangements—but the songs contain a subtle depth that show the handiwork of a gifted master.
How about a batch of rough-hewn Americana songs to soundtrack our inglorious descent into US election season? Luke Roberts' third album ticks all the boxes of classic, time-honoured Americana. Erstwhile of Nashville, the genesis of Roberts' songs came in Kenya, via Cambodia, Thailand and Brooklyn. And while you won’t hear much world music in here, the wayfaring themes ride high alongside those of God and country.
There's something unexpectedly and welcomingly familiar in Luke Roberts' music. Like coming home or a favorite chair, Roberts' Sunlit Cross is comfortable and soothing, something to appreciate, embrace, and sink into. It's music to get lost in while driving the open road, mountains and beautiful American landscapes in every direction. It's blues and folk and heart—so much heart.
A subtle yet quietly grandiose set of modern indie troubadour comfort food, the Nashville native's third studio long-player is both comforting and wistful, a warm summer's drive down a forgotten two-lane highway. His everyman voice and crisp, classic rock-informed melodies evoke Kurt Vile -- a fan and frequent collaborator -- by way of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and his introspective lyrics, informed by an easy, casual Christianity and a deep sense of wanderlust that saw Roberts spending the last four years bouncing around New York, Cambodia, Thailand, and Kenya, feel inclusive rather than self-interested. The unfussy arrangements, which range from old-school singer/songwriter austerity to breezy, piano and drum-propelled Americana, go a long way in keeping things on the chill side -- there's a real American Beauty-era Grateful Dead vibe that runs throughout.