Seth Lakeman at Rough Trade East
English folk singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman performed a short teaser set at Rough Trade East yesterday to promote his newly released album, Word of Mouth. Lakeman’s career began with The Lakeman Brothers, a band formed with siblings Sean and Sam, and has since seen a number of releases, both solo and collaborative. Lakeman’s second solo album Kitty Jay was shortlisted for the 2005 Mercury Prize.
Word of Mouth is the follow up to 2011’s Tales of the Barrel House. Drawing its inspiration from real people that Lakeman interviewed around his homelands of Devon and Cornwall, Word of Mouth chronicles the extraordinary tales of the everyman. The album’s subjects include a railwayman (Last Rider), an ex-dock worker (Another Long Night) and a WWII veteran (Tiger), giving the album an episodical feel where tempo, tale and mood shift with each track and the lyrics unfold like a book of short stories. Lakeman recorded the album in a Cornish church, with the intention of conveying passion and emotion in an organic non-studio setting. The church recording process lends atmosphere to the folk-string ensemble, but some of the all-important lyrics and vocal subtleties are lost in the resonance.
In his lunchtime gig at Rough Trade East, Lakeman opens his low-key showcase with Last Rider before segueing into Each Man, a song that pays homage to the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ struggle for workers’ rights. Moving through Portrait of My Wife and The Saddest Crowd (a song about Titanic survivors), Lakeman wraps up the set with upbeat 2004 hit, Kitty Jay.
Lakeman plays guitar and fiddle with a natural ease that’s enjoyable and comforting to watch. His no fuss approach to performance elements such as appearance, staging and patter give him a likeable presence, but Lakeman’s vocal style and lyrical content fall slightly within parameters of the formulaic and contrived. Lakeman is undoubtedly a talented musician, and the ideas within Word of Mouth almost cumulate in something much more interesting, but there is just too little of the spontaneity and freedom that glimmer beneath the surface of this slightly over-thought album.
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