- 06 Feb 19
If you’ve been lucky enough to catch Robert Plant and his Sensational Shape Shifters of late then you’ve already seen Seth Lakemen. If you’re really lucky you caught his brilliant solo opening slot in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre last year – just him, his fiddle, a stomp box, and his tenor guitar. A native of West Devon, Lakeman has been knocking out his particularly English brand of folk since first performing with his brothers as a teenager, and on through solo albums like the Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay, recorded in his kitchen for £300. Tales of lost spirits on the moors, disasters at sea, and hurlers turned to stone – the usual pop fare, in other words. Imagine a more sexy Fairport Convention, if such a thing be feasible at all.
This, his ninth record, sports a fuller band sound for the most part, although Lakeman’s fiddle is still pleasingly all over it. He has been quoted as saying that it’s a bit “prog-rock”, a phrase that should see sensible people scrambling onto a bus going in the other direction, but I can’t hear it, thankfully.
There’s no dip in quality but stand outs include the infectious, insistent groove of ‘Bright Smile’ and ‘An Educated Man’ – a paean to teachers and the power of the written word. Also recommended are ‘Fitzsimmon’s Fight’, about former heavy weight champ Bob Fitzsimmons - although this is a Lakeman record, so we’re talking about a champ from over a century ago - and the beautiful ‘The Gloaming’, the image of the fading light between dusk and dark as a metaphor for a dying love.
As a fan of Lakeman, won over by his aforementioned live performance, I welcome anything with his name on it, and from the drone out of which opener ‘Bright Smile’ emerges to the similar hum that the closing ‘The Well Worn Path’ retreats into, this is a folk album that’s been eating steak and lifting weights. It’s a beefed-up step forward from his other records, as good as they are. Progress then, rather than Prog. Thank folk.