Usually when you see “& friends” added behind an artist’s name, that’s just something that you can ignore. It’s there to acknowledge a few sidemen, but nothing to significantly change the sound of the recording. After all, if their contributions had been that significant, they would have been given better billing. A Wonder Working Stone is a clear exception to that rule.
Alasdair Roberts’ solo efforts have always felt more than a bit dour. Of course they are more traditional, & certainly the stereotype of traditional Scottish music is not one of sunshine and laughter. A Wonder Working Stone is a change from that stereotype. It’s not that Roberts isn’t acknowledging the darker parts of life, that’s still a theme. This time out, and I place this on the presence of the numerous “Friends” who participate on this project, Roberts refuses to let the darkness win. All your days will end in joy! The contrast is in itself life affirming, and the group atmosphere gives the implicit message that its only through community that we can overcome our difficulties and find happiness.
Special mention must be made of the contributions of Ben Reynolds to this recording. On A Wonder Working Stone he channels his inner Richard Thompson, providing tasty and creative guitar licks and fills.