After 11 albums mainly but not exclusively built around the interaction of his earnest voice and stringed instruments, Scottish folk outrider Alasdair Roberts here reinvigorates his ongoing exploration of songs from centuries past by recruiting two choice co-pilots: Amble Skuse, a composer and sonologist, and David McGuinness, whose CV spans everything from early music to teen drama Skins.

It is the latter whose input is most conspicuous, laying a luxurious carpet of piano and dulcitone – a 19th-century Fender Rhodes, in essence – upon which Roberts eloquently brings old ballads such as Johnny o’ the Brine, Rosie Anderson and The Fair Flower of Northumberland into the here and now. Skuse’s contribution is kept to the background of the sound picture but is no less effective for it, enveloping the eerie, twilit Clerk Colven in a fittingly uncanny cloak of ambient sound and providing a millisecond-long burst of desolation to introduce the child ballad Young Johnstone.

What strikes you most about What News, though, is how liberated Roberts sounds shorn of instrumental responsibilities, though you suspect McGuinness’s expertise on the piano played its part in loosening the singer’s nerves for jaunty murder ballads such as Babylon and the opening Scottish tune The Dun Broon Bride.