The DECEMBERISTS have always been almost too good to be true: fusing folk and rock into a smooth and (miraculously) rarely boring blend, they’ve drawn a sizable audience with songs full of history-flavored narratives that demand close attention. (Their recent Capitol debut, The Crane Wife, was inspired by a Japanese folktale about greed, control, and the pitfalls of spying on a spouse.) Their work has none of the anyone-can-do-it attitude that defines true folk music; their songs are too intricately crafted for that. But like folkies, they hook you by working with the very old idea that a storyteller has a magnetic, almost occult power. –Monica Kendrick

On his most recent CD, last year’s No Earthly Man (Drag City), Glaswegian singer-guitarist ALASDAIR ROBERTS dug deep into traditional British folk, putting his own spin on eight darkly gorgeous murder ballads. He’s back to playing originals on his forthcoming The Amber Gatherers (out in January on Drag City), but the songs have the crystalline beauty of age-old music. On most of the songs he’s joined by a nimble electric trio that includes Teenage Fanclub bassist Gerard Love, but the band doesn’t diminish the lovely, delicate quality of Roberts’s delivery. Loads of contemporary hippies like to blather about their favorite private-press folk records from the early 70s, but Roberts is more than just talk–he demonstrates his knowledge of and connection to tradition and makes it his own. –Peter Margasak

The Decemberists headline and Roberts opens. a 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Alasdair Roberts photo by Rikke Iversholt.