There’s little to be said about Seth Lakeman the performer – selling out venues across the land, getting people dancing at festivals with his bold vocal style and ferocious fiddle playing.
However – as a composer and arranger, for the last couple of albums he’s toyed with the idea that there could be more in the locker than the tried and trusted tales from his Dartmoor roots – or the dare I say it ‘commercially friendly’ numbers that in fairness have served him well as the poster boy of UK folk music. This new record though, this I think could be the first time we are looking at something completely different from Seth – and it’s an intriguing listen.
For this new record, Seth becomes troubadour, bluesman and balladeer – taking inspiration from a host of sources and capturing them in a piece of work that is more stripped back than anything since the prodigious Kitty Jay album of 2002. Recording it in a Jacobean manor house is the first masterstroke to achieving the atmosphere required. Using legendary producer Ethan Johns no doubt assisted this also. With a CV that reads like a hall of fame of popular recording artists, this guy has been there and done it across many genres.
The third thing to bring to the attention is the addition of Exeter based female harmony trio Wildwood Kin – who appear on this album doing what they do best. This is instantly in evidence on ‘The Willow Tree’, the first of 4 non self penned tracks. Unworldly fiddle drones, basic groove and almost gospel like backing vocals immediately set the stall out. This record is going to be raw.
Which is exactly the case on the second track ‘Silence Reigns’. Whereas the Lakeman of a few years ago would probably have followed up a darker track which a more upbeat guitar lead number – this is anything but. Fiddle, hurdy gurdy (played by Johns) and 4 voices – Lakeman’s lead vocal sounding gruffer than in the past, and the gospel like voices of Wilwood Kin again giving a fascinating new spin on the fiddle/voice concept.
And so it continues. The title track ‘Ballad Of The Broken Few’ is so steeped in the music of the Southern States, you almost hope that this was recorded on a back porch.
My favourite on here however is ‘Innocent Child’ – as stark as the rest of the tracks, however this one manages to blur the line of transatlantic influences with old English folk song to form somewhat of a hybrid that could be a genre all of it’s own. Again the female voices adding so much depth.
When you get to the end of this record you realise just how clever it is. For an artist who is set for life in his chosen genre of music, he has actively sought to write and record something fresh, revitalising and different to what has come before. Give this record time – because it is a brilliant piece of work on so many levels.
Ballads of the Broken Few 2016 Tour
Special Guests Wildwood Kin
Tue 08 MANCHESTER RCNM
Wed 09 CHELTENHAM Town Hall
Thu 10 BRIDPORT Electric Palace
Fri 11 PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal
Sat 12 YEOVIL Octagon
Sun 13 KINGS LYNN Corn Exchange
Wed 30 CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Thu 01 BRIGHTON St Georges Church
Fri 02 BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
Sat 03 NORTHAMPTON Derngate
Sun 04 OXFORD Town Hall
Tue 06 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic
Wed 07 GATESHEAD The Sage
Thu 08 CHESTERFIELD Winding Wheel
Fri 09 BRISTOL Colston Hall
Sat 10 ASHFORD St Mary’s Church
Sun 11 NORWICH Open
Tue 13 LONDON Union Chapel
Wed 14 GUILDFORD G Live
Thu 15 MALVERN Theatre
Fri 16 POOLE Lighthouse
Sat 17 EXETER Cathedral
Sun 18 WARWICK Arts Centre
“Ballad of The Broken Few” is available now from iTunes or the official store. Watch the live recording of ‘Ballad of The Broken Few’ at Torre Abbey : https://sethlakeman.lnk.to/BotbfVevo
Buy link – https://SethLakeman.lnk.to/BotbfPR
Review by Phil Daniels