The golden boy of traditional folk fused with pop, fused with a unique voice entirely of his own making, Seth Lakeman’s latest offering has sparked some well-deserved attention for the Devon folk singer.
Tales From the Barrel House is a pure, traditional affair. Mixing themes of artisan crafts and old-fashioned village pursuits with his impressive musicianship and grasp of a diverse range of instruments, Lakeman has created an album which, although it doesn’t do anything particularly new or experimental, is at its heart a solid set of folk songs.
‘Blacksmith’s Prayer’ and ‘Watchmaker’s Rhyme’ pay tribute to the age-old professions, and touch on Lakeman’s over-arching lyrical themes of drawing attention to those who would not otherwise be recognised in society. The twangy banjo along with brooding lower strings works excellently on the former, creating a sense of impending darkness and unease.
Musically, the album is built on guitar, banjo and an array of interesting and varied percussion sounds overlayed with Lakeman’s trademark powerful fiddle parts. The cello plays a more central part than in some of the singer’s other work, creating a real depth and richness of sound.
‘Brother of Penryn’ is a reworking of an old Cornish folk song; probably the most true-to-tradition track on the album, to which Lakeman brings another rousing violin melody and competent arrangement.
Solid folk ballad ‘Hard Road’ is a sure fire crowd-pleaser, with a catchy pop-tinged chorus and powerful string refrain that repeats, pleasingly throughout the track. This track, and the entire album in fact is perfect for the folk festival circuit, of which Lakeman is a seasoned veteran.
There is nothing shocking or groundbreaking about Tales, however many would argue that its genius lies in its simplicity. Lakeman is simply doing what he knows, and doing it extremely well at that. Long live accessible folk.
Words: Lizzie Palmer