Seth Lakeman and Wildwood Kin live at Derby Cathedral

Seth Lakeman live
Photograph by Simon Burch

If Seth Lakeman was feeling any road rage from having spent eight and a half hours in a car during a delayed journey to the Midlands – cancelling an appearance at a record store in nearby Nottingham along the way – then he wasn’t letting any of it show.

Indeed, he was apologetic that the start of the show had to be put back by a quarter of an hour, giving the audience a little longer to wait for the first chance to hear the songs from his long-awaited follow up to Word Of Mouth, Ballads Of The Broken Few, which was released that very day.

Shorn of his band – but with the trio Wildwood Kin waiting in the wings – Lakeman promised that the arrangement would enable him to play some songs that lent themselves to his solo performance and he gave a whistle-stop tour through his musical odyssey to date, taking in ‘The Herders’, ‘The Courier’, ‘Bold Knight’, ‘Lady Of The Sea’ and ‘Portrait Of My Wife’, for which he encouraged audience participation by helpfully running through the chorus beforehand.

About half way through the show he stopped to introduce Wildwood Kin, the young female trio featuring Beth and Emillie Key and their cousin Meghann Loney, who he had invited to jam with him after they released their first EP and then asked to share the top billing to support his change of musical direction with Ballads…

From the very first note their influence on the music was immediate, their Americana harmonies shifting the geography of the music across the Atlantic, and it was also clear in their faces how genuinely they were enjoying themselves – they didn’t stop smiling. The overall effect was akin to spreading honey onto the songs, smoothing the edges of Lakeman’s famously strident delivery.

Their first song was the only cover on the album – ‘Anna Lee’, written by Laurelyn Dosset – and it was followed by ‘Willow Tree’, ‘Stranger’, a beautiful performance of ‘Silver Threads’, ‘Innocent Child’ and ‘Pulling Hard Against The Stream’, the album’s last song which, we were told, nearly didn’t make it onto the record at all.

Ballads Of The Broken Few is simpler and more wistful than the barn-storming folk that has seen Lakeman step into the mainstream – although ‘Meet Me In The Twilight’, the next song, is currently enjoying daily airplay on BBC Radio Two – and the Cathedral, which is one of a number of churches lined up for the tour, lent itself well for the evening’s show, not least because the acoustics lent the delivery a gorgeous richness.

What helped was the effect the setting had on the audience who, sat bolt upright in their wooden pews, were hushed into reverential silence, allowing the music to fill the air and wash over them. It also meant that they were confined to head nodding and hand-clapping for most of the show’s more up-tempo numbers before casting aside their reservations to stand, bob and whoop through the crowd-pleasing ‘Kitty Jay’ and, the final number, the breathless ‘Last Rider’, which would still be better suited to the surroundings of a barn, with dust flying, rather than the ecclesiastical setting of Derby’s largest place of worship.

No matter, the concert was worth the wait and it was a coup for the Cathedral, whose claims to fame include the oldest ring of 10 bells in the world and the final resting place of Bess of Hardwick and a couple of former Dukes of Devonshire, who would doubtless have been tapping their ancient feet inside their crypt along to the songs of a modern-day Devonian very much at the top of his game.

Simon Burch

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Seth Lakeman – Ballads Of The Broken Few link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

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

‘Willow Tree’ – official video:

For details of more events at Derby Cathedral go to:
http://www.derbyfolkfestival.co.uk/venue/derby-cathedral/

SETH LAKEMAN featuring WILDWOOD KIN – Ballads Of The Broken Few (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD644)

ballads of the broken fewIn keeping with his determination to record in unusual and inspiring locations, Lakeman set up shop in the Great Hall of an unnamed Jacobean Manor House, recording the tracks for Ballads Of The Broken Few as live. On top of which, he not only enlisted the services of legendary American producer Ethan Johns, but, having toured with them, invited Exeter based female trio Wildwood Kin (Emillie and Beth Key and cousin Meghann Loney) to be part of the project in providing harmonies.

The end result is arguably, if not necessarily his best (depending on your viewpoint), then certainly his most immediate and haunting work to date, the pared back approach proving the maxim that less can be more. The pacing throughout is slow and deliberate, imparting a reflective, melancholic air, the sound drawing on both English and Appalachian folk influences. Indeed, on the opening track, a slow march rhythm rework of the traditional ‘Willow Tree’ with percussive snaps and fiddle, the girls’ spooked cooing harmonies evoke Alison Krauss’s version of ‘Down To The River To Pray’.

It’s one of three traditional broadsides, the others being the equally stark and Appalachian coloured ‘Stranger’, and, backed just by fiddle drone and a percussive strummed guitar note, album closer ‘Pulling Hard Against The Stream’, a 19th Century moralistic song encouraging folk to support their fellows in times of trouble. There’s also a cover version, ‘Anna Lee’, the backwoods hymnal tale of a mother drowning after ignoring storm warnings written by Laurelyn Dossett and featured on Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer,  that features just mournful fiddle, Lakeman and the girls’ harmonies.

The remaining seven songs are all originals, first up being the spiritual shaded ‘Silence Reigns’, featuring Johns on hurdy gurdy, one of the many striking numbers that suggest Southern Gothic tones, followed, in turn, by the strummed ‘Meet Me In The Twilight’, another track which, with its slow sway tempo and thematic content, conjures riverside revival tents.

Collapsing relationship number ‘Fading Sound’ harks more to the darker shades of English folk, a nervy, ominous number backed by a simple electric guitar riff with occasional burst of fiddle and the drums kicking in for the final seconds. The title track comes next, another spare, brooding listen, its bluesy chorus driven by a handclap worksong slow march rhythm, that again gathers power towards the end.

The final self-penned batch opens with the hypnotic thrum and mandolin-tinged ‘Innocent Child’, another steeped in the dank and dark corners of English folk, the girls’ harmonies reminiscent of The Smoke Fairies at their most fog-shrouded. Rather more restful and contemplative, accompanied by viola and fiddle, with understated Kin harmonies, the five-minute personal portrait ‘Whenever I’m Home’ is a yearningly poignant thoughts from the road ache. Which leaves the plucked fiddle accompanied ‘Silver Threads’, a song about enduring love as time passes, its naked vocal intermittently giving way to such full blooded refrains as “Every year that passes you will be an evergreen all etched against the sky, every day that’s granted for you and for me a tangle and twist of my twine.”

Raw, profound, simple yet resonantly complex, both a consolidation and a move forward, this surely has to be one of the leading serious contenders for album of the year at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Seth Lakeman – Ballads Of The Broken Few link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artists’ website: http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/

‘Stranger’ – official video:

Video Wall 2

Here’s another selection of videos that have come our way recently, mostly with albums in the offing. First on Video Wall 2 is Seth Lakeman from his forthcoming Ballad Of The Broken Few. This is the title track live from Torre Abbey featuring Wildwood Kin.

This is ‘Free Range’ by Nottingham band Gallery47. It comes from their album Clean which is released in November.

Here’s Bendith, a new collaboration between Welsh bands Colorama and Plu. ‘Danybanc’ is the single from their eponymous album which is absolutely wonderful but you’ll have to wait until October to get your hands on a copy.

Shovels & Rope are a duo from South Carolina. ‘I Know’ is from their new album Little Seeds which is also out in October. This is fun.

In October 2015, the record-breaking cyclist James Bowthorpe set out to build a boat from the debris and discarded materials found on the streets of Manhattan. He then took the boat to the source of the Hudson, a tiny pond called Lake Tear Of The Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains and sailed all 315 miles of the Hudson River, through ice, snow, and grade-four white water to return the boat, made solely from New York City’s waste, to its place of origin. This film uses the single ‘Tides’ by Dan Michaelson And The Coastguards to illustrate James’ not always trouble-free journey.

Finally, this is all we have as a taster for singer/harpist Georgia Ruth’s new album Fossil Scale, out in November. This is ‘The Doldrums’.

Fay Hield Announces Details of New Album

Fay Hield Announces Details of New Album

Following the considerable success of The Full English album and touring band, which she assembled, singer Fay Hield is due to release her 3rd solo album, Old Adam on Soundpost Records on 12th February 2016 and will tour in February and March too. Meanwhile, a digital single, taken from the album, featuring ‘Willow Glen’ and ‘Green Gravel’ is now available.

Old Adam is a fresh and original exploration of how we use stories and music to understand what it means to be human and combines not only Fay’s gift for unearthing striking material but also her distinctive and naturalistic delivery of it. These qualities have won her critical acclaim for her previous solo albums (Looking Glass in 2010 and Orfeo in 2012, both on Topic Records) including several BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and a nomination for Folk Singer of the Year. Continue reading Fay Hield Announces Details of New Album

Wickham Festival 2015 – Reviewed by Simon Burch

Click on the photo below to see the full set…

Wickham 2015

Staged in a corn field and with three stages linked by alleyways of food and crafts stalls, Wickham proved to be a good nursery slope for my family of first-time festival goers: no intimidating vast crowds and a relaxed atmosphere which built steadily through what turned out to be some swelteringly hot days.

showofhands_wickham15Musically, in the main All Time Grates big top stage it was folk with a twist of vintage pop and rock: from crowd-pleasing sets by folk stars such as Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands, Eliza Carthy, Lisbee Stainton and Martin Carthy to The South – Beautiful South survivors Dave Hemmingway and Alison Wheeler – 10CC, Billy Bragg, Cockney Rebel, Wilko Johnson and The Proclaimers.

Crowd_Wickham15The crowd was an eclectic mix of folk devotees and commuter belt families, but overall the demographic was mature and knowledgeable so that at times the main stage had the contented air of a cricket match, with festival goers seated sensibly underneath sun-hats on folding chairs, sipping real ale and completing sudokus to the sound of music.

Giants@WickhamI soon found out that for a parent festivals have to be enjoyed in the round. My children weren’t there for the music, but found instead joy in the laser quest – a shoot-‘em-up inside a series of sweaty, dark inflatable tunnels – the solar-powered Groovy Movie cinema and the digital funfair, a quirky installation where gamers played Space Invaders while sitting on a stationary bike or racked up high scores by slapping two headless mannequins on their plastic buttocks in time to music.

Playbus_Wickham15After a while it became possible to enjoy the music while waiting for them to complete their activities or resisting their pleas to spend the GDP of a small country in the various food and craft stalls, simply via the proximity to the three stages, especially the acoustic stage, where a varied line-up of young up-and-comers and older veterans strummed, picked and twanged their way skilfully through a mixture of their own material and interpretations of popular classics, finding favour with a sprinkling of punters lounging back on the straw-coated ground.

At the top of the festival was the sweatier and rockier Bowman Ales Stage 2 tent – which hosted performances from Edward II, headlining prog rockers Stone Cold and Damn Beats – but I confess that, as a first-timer wanting to immerse myself in folk my visits there were fleeting so I concentrated on the main stage, where a succession of acts filled the afternoons and evenings with musical stories from every corner of Britain and beyond.

SpookyMen_Wickham15From the lilting Northumberland romance of Kathryn Tickell and the Side, to the seasoned yarns of Huw Williams and Maartin Allcock and the acapella oddness of the Spooky Men’s Chorale, it is fair to say there was something for everyone’s tastes, but the big top came into its own later on as the sun dipped behind the food stalls and the headliners took to the stage.

BillyBragg_Wickham15Among the highlights was the life-affirming return to action of Wilko Johnson, the welcome familiarity of The (Beautiful) South’s hits and the appearance of Billy Bragg, whose wit and political zeal brought Friday night to a close. The next night, Seth Lakeman gave a rollicking masterclass of modern folk rock, sweeping the audience along and raising the temperature in the big top.

Proclaimers2_Wickham15Despite the passing of years, festival headliners The Proclaimers hadn’t seemingly aged that much and their set was a polished resounding collection of love songs, devoted to Scotland as much as to the objects of their desire. The large TV screens showed that the Reid twins had their committed fans who knew all of Proclaimers1_Wickham15the words, but as the night continued, you did get the feeling that most people in the tent were waiting for their signature tune – I Would Walk 500 Mile – like a seashore full of surfers all readying themselves for the big wave that would take them right to shore.

And, duly, at about five to 11, it arrived: cueing a joyous outburst of jigs and a singalong in affected Scottish accents. This provided the most exuberant moment of the weekend, before it drew to a close with a thank you and good night, and the boys left the stage.

The third night was over, but the next day the sun again rose hot and strong. Family holiday commitments meant I had to slip away early, but in my absence the crowds returned with their chairs and sun hats, eager for more.

Simon Burch – 23 August 2015

Towersey Festival: 50 Years In The Making

New book celebrates half-century of much-loved Oxfordshire festival

The celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Towersey Festival continue with the publication of a new book.

Towersey 50Featuring 300 photographs, stories from festival-goers and interviews with many individuals who’ve shaped the much-loved annual event, Towersey Festival: 50 Years In The Making traces the festival’s history from its small-scale beginnings as a one day event in 1965, to its current position as one of the most significant and popular events in the annual folk festival diary.

Beginning with a brief history of the village, the book also includes newspaper reports and reviews, plus profiles of many of the key artists and acts who’ve entertained audiences, from Pam Ayres, Dave and Toni Arthur and the Cock And Bull Band, to Show Of Hands, Bellowhead, Eliza Carthy and Australia’s hairy Spooky Men’s Chorale. There are also contributions from regular attendees, who’ve grown up with, and been inspired by, the festival, turning annual attendance into a longstanding family tradition.

Continue reading Towersey Festival: 50 Years In The Making