It has been five years since Kathryn and Sean’s last album of new music. There was a retrospective album of recorded back catalogue a couple of years ago but everyone had to do something during lockdown. Almost A Sunset is their seventh album and it’s the real thing. I think we can take it as read that Kathryn and Sean are fine musicians as well as consummate songwriters but time brings on changes.
Fear not. The opening track, ‘Eavesdropper’, is inspired by gargoyles who hear everything but, more importantly, by ‘What Will Become Of England’ lifting a verse from Harry Cox’s original. Almost A Sunset picks up where Personae left off. It’s not all rabble-rousing by any means, though. ‘Pew Tor’ is a contemplative song about a spot on Dartmoor, ‘Ropedancer’ is a song of praise for funambulist Charles Blondin (why not?) and ‘Fear Not The Mountain’ is about just that. Kathryn and Sean give no explanation of its inspiration.
Playing piano, woodwinds, guitar, bass and percussion, very little musical support is needed but daughter Poppy provides vocals on the first track (her twin, Lily took the cover photographs) and Jake Rowlinson sings on ‘Call My Name’. Brother Seth plays fiddle on the second part of the album’s big production number, ‘Red Rose & White Lily’ but before that we have the full-on folk-rock of ‘Fall Of The Lion Queen’ – I won’t spoil it for you by saying any more.
‘Red Rose & White Lily’ is a Robin Hood ballad with everything you could possibly wish for; a cruel stepmother, cross-dressing, a secret birth in the forest and, unusually, a happy ending. Kathryn and Sean split its seven minutes into two parts which isn’t strictly necessary but who am I to criticise? ‘Night Visiting’ is a straight take on the traditional song. Continuing their selection of unusual subjects, ‘Bound To Stone’, tells the story of Sarah Lockwood Winchester who became fabulously wealthy after the deaths of her husband and mother-in-law but spent the rest of her life building on to the Winchester mansion, perhaps out of a sense of guilt. This is another fine song. Finally, ‘Year Without A Summer’ tells the story of Mary Shelley and the writing of her famous novel.
Almost A Sunset is not an album to be rushed into. It is a record of great contrasts from the boisterous to the thoughtful with some very special songs.
Artists’ website: www.kathrynrobertsandseanlakeman.co
‘Pew Tor’ – official video: