Modern folk rooted deep in traditional music.
Seth Lakeman has that ability to create something entirely contemporary from sounds that emerge from traditional music. The instrumentation and approach is firmly rooted in folk traditions, but the songs, themes and production resonate with modern expectations and feelings. It’s an impressive mix: songs which could not have been written anytime other than now; but, at the same time, using styles entirely familiar to an audience from 1821 or 1721.
Some songs like the opening ‘Hollow’ may be more roots-rock, a straight-ahead rock song played on acoustic instruments behind Lakeman’s intense vocals somewhere between Martin Carthy and Kurt Cobain. Others, like next track ‘The Giant’ make a significant nod to traditional music, although the whole is no less urgent and insistent. Backed by some phenomenal playing from Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzoki, mandolin and banjo and kept tight by the drumming of Toby Kearney (the principal percussionist at the Birmingham Conservatoire.) Superb backing vocals from Alex Hart, particularly on the beguiling ‘Love Will Still Remain’ and ‘Shoals to Turn’.
There is a real sense of drama inherent in tracks like ‘The Lark’ which builds to an insistent, rhythmic refrain which seems quite un-lark-like and reveals the song’s darker themes of loss and the dark threat in ‘Coming for You Soon’. There is something fairly bleak at the heart of ‘Make Your Mark’ which may centre on its origins during the pandemic. But Lakeman says he wanted to emerge “musically stronger” from the experience. This is certainly evidence of his success.