SETH LAKEMAN – The Well Worn Path (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD709)

The Well Worn PathSeth Lakeman’s new album has appeared with surprisingly little fanfare. The Well Worn Path was recorded at the beginning of the year during a break in the Robert Plant/Shape Shifters tour with old comrades and relations Ben Nicholls, Kathryn Roberts and brother Sean and new friends Kit Hawes, who brings something of Sheelanagig’s pan-European influences, and Evan Jenkins. The album is stripped down but not in the way that Ballads Of The Broken Few was – you’d have to call this folk-rock – but I suspect that if Seth has learned anything from The Shape Shifters it is to value the spaces within the music.

His playing is in the English fiddle-singer style with a dramatic keening edge over powerful drumming from Jenkins and Nicholls’ bass. Kit Hawes plays finely judged guitar fills and intros, sometimes gentle and subtle, sometimes strident but never overdone. This folk-rock is definitely 60s style – I can hear echoes of Liege & Lief in one or two songs and the dark, hollow sound that Steeleye achieved on Ten Man Mop. There’s even a hint of Iain Matthews in ‘The Educated Man’, a seemingly autobiographical song co-written with David Prowse, who is definitely not Luke’s father but could be a member of Japandroids.

The songs are all original although Seth accepts help when he needs it. The opening track is his reworking of ‘Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still’ and ‘She Never Blamed Him’ is an old-time American song, probably from the Civil War but made darker by Seth’s new arrangement. Kit Hawes co-wrote ‘Drink ‘Til I’m Dry’ and the album’s title track and Reg Meuross co-wrote ‘Divided We Will Fall’, a thinly veiled political piece. ‘Fitzsimmons’ Fight’ is all Lakeman and harks back to the west country stories of his early work – Bob Fitzsimmons was a Cornishman, after all.

Seth has made another step along his musical journey with The Well Worn Path – highly recommended.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.sethlakeman.co.uk

‘Divided We Will Fall’ – official video:

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman announce new album

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman

Duos come and duos go. And some nurture and fine tune their art and watch it grow into something totally original, captivating and award-winning. Bonded by an unseen alchemy, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have entwined their professional and personal relationship into an enviable class act of imaginative songwriting and musicianship.

The Dartmoor-based husband and wife have twice won the coveted Best Duo title at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2016 and 2013), consistently delivering assured, distinctive performances whether live or recorded.

Over two decades of performance they have never been trapped in a groove – always bold and innovative, mixing traditional song arrangements with (increasingly) their self-penned material which reels from the bitter to the sweet, the wry to the sad, the political to the passive, across folk, rock, country and blues genres.

A deft acoustic and electric guitarist and slick producer, Lakeman’s feted skills are matched by the exquisite voice and fluid piano and flute playing of Barnsley-born Roberts.

After a break to have their twin girls the former Equation band members returned in fine form with two acclaimed albums – Hidden People  (2012) followed by Tomorrow Will Follow Today (2015). The 2012 release included their outstanding song about the South Yorkshire 1980s miners’ strike ‘The Ballad Of Andy Jacobs’, nominated for Best Original Track at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Personae, their landmark fifth studio album is an eclectic emotional see-saw of material, melding ten tracks of traditional ballads and their own versatile material, not surprisingly produced by Sean.

The album opens with a rousing, percussive folk-rock version of the Child Ballad ‘The Knight’s Ghost’, with Sam Kelly on guest vocals.

It leads straight into one of the stand-out tracks of the album – the plaintive original song ‘Independence’, about the relationship between parent and child and finding your way in the world, with its Kate Bush echoes.

The inspiration for their songs is often unexpected and quirky. ‘Tribute Of Hands’ is a fast-moving original song for a city – the giant-killing legend of the founding of the Flemish city of Antwerp.

Kathryn’s sublime vocal tackles Sandy Denny’s strong and elusive torch song ‘Solo’ in the one cover on the album – her favourite Denny song from the time she joined the Fotheringay reunion line-up in 2015. The mood then flips completely with the jaunty tongue-in-cheek Roberts/Lakeman number ‘The Poison Club’ – shades of Sergeant Pepper delicately laced with cyanide, arsenic and hemlock!

The poetic Seasons is an arresting short journey mirroring love with the turn of the calendar and the duo again unearth unusual subject matter with ‘The Street Of The Cats Who Dance’, inspired by the true story of a change of Breton law in 1772 when they ceased using a pack of English Mastiffs to police the nightly curfew in St Malo after the grizzly death of a naval officer.

Two contrasting songs bound by a common theme follow – Kathryn’s multi-tracked voice telling the story of ‘Boney’s Defeat ‘before moving to the duo’s wonderful country-style song about another St Helena resident.

While Tomorrow Will Follow Today featured ‘52 Hertz’ a song about a lonely misfit whale -here they revisit the animal world with ‘Old, Old, Old’, a quirky anthem written from the perspective of the 185 year-old giant Seychelles tortoise Jonathan with Seth Lakeman adding his fiddling skills.

The album closes with the beautiful and enigmatic ‘Goddess Made Flesh’. Asking the question “was she an icon or was she a fraud?” it’s a pensive piece rueing the loss of many young talented performers and wondering how their lives may have unfolded.

Once again Roberts & Lakeman have created an album by turns curious, thought-provoking, moving and magical – a complete cornucopia astutely delivered by one of the most intriguing, uninhibited and popular duos on the scene. Most definitely not personae non gratae.

Personae is released on the Iscream label on March 9th and distributed by Proper Records.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: https://www.kathrynrobertsandseanlakeman.com/

‘Solo’ – live:

GEOFF LAKEMAN – After All These Years (own label GLAK-01)

After All These YearsGeoff Lakeman isn’t quite as famous as his sons but he is a much regarded singer and songwriter, particularly in the West Country. At 69 Geoff has finally succumbed to the temptation to record an album, After All These Years, produced by son Sean. Geoff usually performs solo with concertina but with friends and family like his it must have been impossible to resist getting them on board, although the contributions of Jim Causley, Cara Dillon, Kathryn Roberts, Sam Kelly, Ben Nicholls, Jamie Francis, Seth Lakeman and Nic Jones are commendably restrained except when it comes to choruses. Geoff himself has the voice of, if not a young man, then a young man who has seen a bit of life – strong and characterful.

If you were a folk club regular in the sixties and seventies you will be entirely at home with this set. Not that Geoff is locked in the past as his cover of Reg Meuross’ ‘England Green & England Grey’ proves but the mix of material is such that if you don’t care for a particular song you’ll like the next one.

The set opens with ‘The Farmer’s Song’. It was written by Roger Bryant but easily could be one of Geoff’s as he demonstrates with the next track, ‘Tie ’Em Up’. Both are about the decline of traditional rural industries and while both writers were preoccupied with the plight of Devon and Cornwall the same stories are true all around the country. ‘Rule And Rant’ is a bit of obscure Cornish history involving an ingenious mine rescue. The traditional songs include ‘Ye Lovers All’, a song of romantic teasing from Ulster, the well-known ‘Jim Jones’ and ‘The Green Cockade’ a Cornish version of the song that may have arrived from Ireland and ‘Bonny Irish Maid’ – there’s a pattern developing here.

There are a couple of oddities. The first is the original version of ‘Galway Bay’ – not that song and certainly not the celebrated parody (I confess that I was rather hoping for that) – and the closing ‘Doggie Song’. This is the sort of encore that you’ll still find in folk clubs and probably means a lot more in Cornwall but is best not recorded. That aside, this is a splendid album to unwind with, think about and sing along to.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.geofflakeman.co.uk

‘Tie ‘Em Up’ – live:

THE LEYLINES – Along The Old Straight Track (own label)

Along The Old Straight TrackTwenty-five or thirty years ago you would have identified Along The Old Straight Track as a new Levellers’ album. There’s the distinctive vocal style, the driving fiddle, the solid drums and bass in the engine room and the occasional agit-prop lyrics. You won’t be surprised to learn that The Leylines were inspired by Levelling The Land or that the album was recorded at Metway Studios with Sean Lakeman and Al Scott in charge of production and mixing. The band are a quintet from Weston-super-Mare: Stephen Mitchell, Matthew Wilkins, Hannah Johns, Peter Fealey and Dave Burbidge and this is their first album following on from and EP, Let It Go, and the single ‘Sat In A Field’.

So here’s the question – when does inspiration become copying? I like this album and there are some brilliant songs. ‘Things I Know’ anticipates the coming revolution, ‘Run For Cover’ reiterates the warning and ‘You’ve Changed’ is puzzling and vaguely menacing – I wish I knew its back-story. ‘Sat In A Field’ extols the joys of summer festivals while ‘Sorry My Friends’ looks at the other side of the coin, lamenting that “the dream just didn’t come true”.

While Levellers seem to be re-treading past glories it’s good that someone is taking up the torch but now The Leylines have to step out of that shadow and stand blinking in the light of their own, not inconsiderable, talent. You’ve pitched your tent, chaps, and that’s great but next time you have to break some new ground – something like the hidden track would be good.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.theleylinesmusic.co.uk

‘Sat In A Field’ – official video:

The Willows’ new album, Amidst Fiery Skies, released October 6, 2014

AFS CoverRising Cambridge five piece’s striking second album sets alight Anglo-American melting pot

Outstanding young Cambridge band The Willows will release a striking follow up to their debut album this autumn, further enhancing their growing reputation as inspired musicians and innovative songwriters.

Amidst Fiery Skies, due out on October 6, rekindles the flame sparked by their acclaimed first album Beneath this Humble Soil and reveals a mellifluous melding of influences -11 tracks infused with Americana, bluegrass, country and English folk, from foot stompers to ballads.

The Willows are adept at juxtaposing fiery and fragile, tough and tender, lush and light, in an emotive rollercoaster mix, perhaps no more so than on this new release. With shades of Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Waifs, Gillian Welch and Be Good Tanyas, theirs is life affirming, affecting, energised and evocative music.

There is alchemy at work in this smart, sassy line-up with familial links. The band is fronted by Jade Rhiannon with her distinctively husky but tender vocal, aided and abetted by talented multi-instrumental husband Cliff Ward on banjo, guitar, violin and vocals and sister-in-law Prue Ward, a superb, sensitive fiddler. Ben Savage, apparently “found” in the Gumtree free ads, is a dynamic dobro and guitar player while “new kid on the block” is versatile Evan Carson on bodhran, drums and percussion.

Skilfully produced by Sean Lakeman who has masterminded albums for brother Seth Lakeman, The Levellers, Carus Thompson and Rev Hammer as well as his own duo with Kathryn Roberts, this release brings together poetic songs of land and sea from both sides of the Atlantic, mixing original, traditional and covers songs in one beguiling and enigmatic collection.

Feted for their “absolutely gorgeous sound” by Bob Harris and championed by the likes of Mike Harding, The Willows formed four years ago, making waves with their 2013 debut album produced by Stu Hanna, which was nominated for Best Debut Album in the Spiral Awards, run by popular music website Spiral Earth. They clinched the Pride of Cambridge prize in the New Music Generator Awards hosted by radio station Cambridge 105 and along the way have supported the likes of Lau, Seth Lakeman, Peatbog Faeries and Rory McLeod.

“Engaging and sensitive newgrass musicianship – The Willows come across like an English take on Union Station” – fRoots Magazine

“A unit that ply their brio and accomplishment – The Willows know what they are about”Songlines Magazine

The vibrant new album, which also features guest double bassist Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman Band/The Full English) delivers vivid narrative songs. The compelling banjo-driven ‘Johnny Robson’ tells of a man who throws himself into the fire after seeing an apparition of his dead wife while ‘The Visitor’ is a fine original inspired by the band’s trip to Robin Hood’s Bay, telling the true epic story of one of the most significant lifeboat rescues in British history.

“Absolutely gorgeous sound” – Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

“They straddle the worlds between Americana and English roots music in a very deft way; for such a young band they don’t take any prisoners. Fabulous music”- Mike Harding

The CD opens with the winsome ‘Red Sands’ interweaving several story threads – from tales of Welsh great grandparents to those forced to move from the land they love and cherished memories of childhood holidays in Norfolk. There’s an infectiously catchy reading of Bill Staines’ sublime ‘Roseville Fair’ – a song Ben was drawn to after hearing Chris Wood and Andy Cutting’s interpretation while Jade brings her warm honeyed vocal to the poignant Irish ballad ‘Maid of Culmore’ and America’s early Irish immigrants working on the Central Pacific Railroad are the focus of ‘Shores’ on which Cliff takes lead vocal.

The self-penned ‘Our Road’ is mellow and mournful with the fluid fiddle of Prue to the fore while ‘Daughter’ is punchy, pacy and free flowing as it looks through the eyes of a young girl and her evolving relationship with her family as she grows from a cautious child into a wise mother.

Utah Phillips’ ‘Goodnight Loving Trail’, learned from the singing of Sara Grey, tells of an old cowboy who became the cook of the 2000 mile cattle trail from Texas to Wyoming while the achingly tender ‘Outward Bound’ is the result of delving into the treasure trove that is The Full English Digital Archive and alighting upon a manuscript collected by Francis Collinson in Kent. Based on ‘The Faithful Sailor Boy’ it tells of a ship’s safe return to land minus the maiden’s lover and is set to a fresh new melody by the band.

The lush full sound of album closer Wave washes over this classy collection, again featuring soaring violin and reversing a common song theme of yearning to return home to civilisation with a desire to stay away and linger a little longer in isolation.

Amidst Fiery Skies is released on the Elk Records label and distributed by Proper Music.

Artist’s website: www.thewillowsband.co.uk

Free Stream of Blacksmith’s Prayer form SETH LAKEMAN LIVE WITH THE BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA

In March 2012, folk-inspired, multiaward winning singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman played with the renowned BBC Concert Orchestra at Plymouth Pavilions in Devon. Seth will release a five track LIVE EP on 03 December featuring recordings from that night mixed by Richard Evans.

The live EP features versions of some of Seth’s best known songs, arranged by Anne Dudley and conducted by Matthew Coorey. It features Blacksmith’s Prayer (streamed below)  from his current album Tales from the Barrel House, Kitty Jay the title track from his 2005 Mercury nominated album, Lady of the Sea and King & Country from his gold-selling album Freedom Fields and Changes from Hearts & Minds.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link: http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/