- 13 Feb 20
Plymouth Rock (N' Roll)
If you’re not already a fan of Cornwall folker Seth Lakeman – and if you missed albums of the calibre of the Mercury-nominated Kitty Jay and 2017’s The Well Worn Path, or his stint with Robert Plant, then you are missing out – this one might be a big ask. It’s a concept album in every sense, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, the ship that brought the devout Separatist congregation to the new world. It does sound off-putting, I know, and the news that actor Paul McGann – ‘I’ himself – narrates the album probably doesn’t help, but this is a tale well told.
Utilising his usual arsenal - as witnessed at his recent Temple Bar Tradfest show - of tenor guitar, bouzouki, fiddle, drones and percussion - there’s not much here that couldn’t have conceivably been played four centuries ago – the story begins when an ominous dream disturbs the Wampanoag tribe ahead of the arrival of the Europeans to their native land (‘Watch Out’). Lakeman explains the reasons behind the pilgrim’s flight (‘Pilgrim Brother’), and the trepidation (‘Pilgrim’s Warning’) and hope (‘Sailing Time’) that such an undertaking could not but engender.
The journey is mercilessly hard, the ship nearly lost (‘The Great Iron Screw’) and the arrival in the new world brings little comfort. The first winter is a harsh one and there is conflict with the indigenous Wampanoag (‘Saints And Strangers’), but at last a truce is reached between the settlers and the natives and a flourishing future is looked forward to.
Lakeman’s song writing and instrumental prowess, as well as contributions from the likes of Cara Dillon and his Dad Geoff, elevate an undertaking that could so easily have been dreadful eyes-closed-finger-in-the-ear fare into something vital. This is a voyage worth taking.