Luke Roberts: Big Bells and Dime Songs (2011)


Luke Roberts – Big Bells & Dime Songs

Pitchfork:  7.5

Big Bells is preoccupied with failures, emotional or otherwise: These are faithless laments, dirges for the nights when your glass is empty and no one’s coming over… These songs are fiercely internal, which also makes them remarkably hard to shake– here, Roberts is singing about the no-place of everyplace, the desolation we all know.

Drowned in Sound: 6/10

…Roberts’ ditties pride themselves on being not flagrant or especially well-honed, you have to admit Big Bells & Dime Songs – the title itself a peculiar oxymoron of impoverished ambition – is a record of hard-bitten character…  While sometimes left wanting for redeeming bells and whistles, where Big Bells & Dime Songs sporadically strikes gold is its distillation of tumbleweed folk Americana…Roberts’ style is rigid and repetitive, not necessarily brave, witty, wise or anything else you’d traditionally look out for in a non-boring, non-nu-folk, indie-credible singer-songwriter.

Popmatters:  6/10

Big Bells is not a singles record. If you’ll forgive the tired metaphor, it’s more like a landscape—to be taken in all together, more about mood and feeling than about specific points or blades of grass. These songs bleed together, dirges constructed from similar elements toward similar results. Brushed snare pops up here and there above the guitar, or a distant electric reverb, or a humming organ. These shades add enough color to keep things interesting, if not thrilling. But then, Roberts doesn’t seem interested in thrilling. He wants to create and sustain a mood, one of quiet melancholy, or a sadness lightly struck with some beauty.

Foxy Digitalis: 9/10

His singing voice is plaintive and low, and his lyrics are delivered with a style of unadorned simplicity and roughness that belies his youth; the whole effect is that of a musician exploring a particularly expressive style in a quiet way.  Each song features a style of Southern folk and blues music that is written with affection for these forms, and there are beautiful chord progressions and melodies, and genuine moments of sadness, that crop up throughout the recording, particularly on pieces such as “Anyway” and “Unspotted Clothes” (songs which also have a quality that make you want to return to them repeatedly).  The album can also, however, move at a too-slow pace, creating gaps between the well-written moments and its more repetitive sections.

405:  8/10

There is a real feeling of Americana and storytelling surrounding Big Bells and Dime Songs, it reaches out and attempts to depict a slice of life through music of an age almost gone by through Roberts’s finger picked acoustic guitar and the heavy, steady drum beats which are sprawled across each track. Roberts harks back to a time where songs where simply stories about life, accounts of the musician and of all he had gone through to get to where he was today. The musical history is not lost on Roberts and often he does a great service to those roots, most notably the sorrow laden ‘Dime Song’ and bittersweet ‘All American’.


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