SASKIA GRIFFITHS-MOORE – Baez, Dylan & Me (own label)

Baez Dylan & MeFor her second album this year, Griffths-Moore opted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock by recording an album of songs she’d have liked to have sung had she performed there. As the title indicates, she decided to focus on two of her heroes, one penned by Baez and one by Phil Ochs that she made famous, eight by Dylan (several of which Joan covered), and, well, I’ll get to the last one later. Reworked in her own style, and featuring, among others, Kit Hawes on mandolin and Joseph O’Keefe on violin, she opens with one of the early Dylan classics, a nervy plucked guitar arrangement of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ that, echoing Baez in the vocals, introduces fiddle as it gathers towards the end. A simple strummed ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door ‘follows, O’Keefe’s solo complementing the song’s resigned melancholia. Popularised by Baez, ‘Farewell Angelina’ waltzes lightly across the musical palette with Hawes providing mandolin and Griffiths-Moore giving it some whistling midway before launching into a sparse and haunting live recording of Baez’s own masterpiece, ‘Diamonds And Rust’.

It’s back to early Bob for the Baez arrangement of ‘Don’t Think Twice’, again with mandolin solo, and ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ with a simply strummed, slightly warbled, vocally soaring ‘Forever Young’ sandwiched in-between and then it’s into the longest track, a five-minute version of Och’s ‘There But For Fortune’ though I have to say it’s something of a plodder and lacks the emotional edge Baez invested.

Another live recording and again just an acoustic strum, ‘Make You Feel My Love’ redeems matters, but I can’t help feeling that the brisk pacing of ‘The Times They Are A Changing’ rather rushes through the lyrics, diluting their still potent resonance and lacking the original’s anger.

And so the final track and, since the album was recorded at Abbey Road, she chooses to end with ‘Let It Be’, another number covered by Baez, with Ali Petrie on piano, here dialling down the original and Joan’s emoting on the refrain but, like the Baez recording, with the tempo sped up as if she’s trying to get the track down before the studio time runs out.

Those reservations aside, however, this is a very listenable collection clearly recorded with affection but not slavish reverence for the sources. Woodstock would have liked it.

Mike Davies

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‘There But For Fortune’ – official video:

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

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‘Divided We Will Fall’ – official video:

Seth Lakeman announces new album

Seth Lakeman

Fresh from his whirlwind world tour with rock legend Robert Plant, charismatic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Seth Lakeman releases his stunning, ninth solo album The Well-Worn Path on October 26th via Cooking Vinyl. The first single will be stand-out, upbeat track ‘Divided We Will Fall’.

The Well-Worn Path was recorded in Seth’s garden studio on Dartmoor in January 2018 on a short break from touring with Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. It is a return to a no-nonsense, organic, classic folk-rock approach with hints of Fairport Convention, Neil Young, Nick Cave and Billy Bragg. Plus Lakeman’s trademark foot-stomping, fiddle bow-shredding and soaring vocals.

Seth brought in top producer Ben Hillier (Elbow, Blur, Depeche Mode, Doves) and his brilliant, new four-piece band consists of long-time collaborator Ben Nicholls (upright and electric bass), new boys Kit Hawes (electric and acoustic guitar) and Evan Jenkins (drums) and one of the finest female folk voices, Kathryn Roberts (Seth’s sister-in-law).
Constantly exploring and moving forward musically,

Seth says “This ninth CD is quite different from my previous album, with more of a prog-rock approach. My last record was a deliberately understated Americana set, but this one is more rocking.”

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‘Divided We Will Fall’:

KIT HAWES & AARON CATLOW – The Fox (Big Badger Records BBRCD006)

The FoxKit Hawes and Aaron Catlow are two-fifths of Bristol band Sheelanagig and The Fox is their first recorded exploration of their music as a guitar/violin duo. Their parent band is well-known for its pan-European influences and they can’t quite escape that – Aaron’s ‘Peddler’s Leg’ is a high-energy instrumental – but they try to stick to their British roots.

The opening track is ‘The Fighter’, written by Kit. It’s set in a fairground boxing booth but the twist is that challenger is female and what’s more she wins her bout. There may be a story there but Kit doesn’t let on and leaves us with the message that “winning don’t come cheap” but it’s worth the pain if it confounds expectations. Next come a pair of traditional songs, ‘John Barleycorn’ and the title track. Both are played fairly straight and I couldn’t help but reflect how out of date ‘The Fox’ is – around here you can’t drive at night without seeing a fox or two out scavenging and there’s no need for them to go to town at all. Both songs are well done but I am a bit disappointed at such safe choices.

‘Crossfire’, also by Kit, is the album’s political song, short and bitter, and that’s followed by ‘Lofoten’, a part traditional, part original instrumental again drawing on the Sheelanagig heritage. ‘Country Blues’ is a departure and, although it’s labelled traditional it feels like an assemblage of verses; certainly some it comes from Dock Boggs and some from Ralph Stanley. The final song, ‘All On A Day’, takes us back to the mythical rural idyll inhabited by the fighter of the first track – here Robin O’Ribbons and Kindling Kate are heading for the woods and definitely up to no good.

The Fox is a nice mixture of simplicity and complexity. There are just two voices and two instruments, no guests and no multi-tracked overdubs. The execution is simple but some of the music, particularly the instrumental tracks are complex enough for anyone.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Fighter’ live: