mon 20/05/2024

CD: Seth Lakeman - Word of Mouth | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Seth Lakeman - Word of Mouth

CD: Seth Lakeman - Word of Mouth

Brit folk star's West Country project doesn't know who it's trying to please

Seth Lakeman's album "Word of Mouth"

Torn between mainstream adulation and the select approval of the folk community, Seth Lakeman has recently seemed unsure of who his audience are.

Propelled into the big time on the back of the Mercury nomination for his 2004 album Kitty Jay (recorded in his kitchen for £300), Lakeman then released two albums aimed squarely at the Tesco’s CD aisle (if not at impressing critics), before returning to his roots with the 2012 solo recording Tales from the Barrel House, celebrating the vanishing artisans of his native Devon.  

He seems now to be aiming for both audiences at once. The concept of this album - songs inspired by unusual lives on the fringes of West Country society - is an interesting development of the last album’s localism. But where Barrel House was a solo performance, here Lakeman has assembled a substantial band, and a battery of backing instruments.

The sound can’t help being a little cluttered. Opening track “The Wanderer”, about a pair of elderly travellers, needs a spacious evocation of landscape and vista, but gets aggressive and melodramatic phrasing; “Labour She Calls Home” about a woman working on the Minack amphitheatre, needs dignity and atmosphere, not pop backing vocals. Lakeman’s heavily accented style works better with the more strident subject matter such as “Each Man”, about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and “Another Long Night”, about the Devonport dockyard.

The recording was made in a Cornish church, but was mastered, in another one of the project’s Janus faces, at Abbey Road, where an electronic sheen has been applied which smothers the grit, and pluck, and grind this music needs. This is a substantial, worthwhile project, but its moments of musical excitement are sometimes obscured by the mushy sound of someone having his cake and eating it.


The moments of musical excitement are sometimes obscured by the mushy sound of someone having his cake and eating it

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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