Ballads of the Broken Few
Epic Folk Songs of a Different Hue Altogether.
Well….I thought I knew what to expect; but I wasn’t expecting that for an opening song!
An almost Appalachian fiddle and wailing train effect open Willow Tree, the first track here. Lakeman’s voice too sounds deeper and richer than I’d remembered from a casual listen to some of his music a few years ago.
On the second song; Silence Reigns Lakeman and that fiddle mine an even deeper Folk Music shaft coming up with an almost Southern Gothic effect, that is both haunting (especially so when the Wildwood Kin sisters sweep in with their angelic harmonies) and imaginative.
It would be a huge exaggeration to say that the mood picks up over the next few songs; but at least by the time we get to Fading Sound there is something of a melody involved; but the lyrics to the song are as sad as the album gets.
The first time I listened to this album was in the car on a bright and sunny day; so I missed the nuances that abound in the broody Innocent Child and the brittlely beauteous Silver Threads; which is one of the few songs to actually sound English in origin.
I think even hardened Seth Lakeman fans will find this album difficult to listen too; but the hard work is worth it when your own mood is right to listen to his heartfelt and sorrowful rendition of Anna Lee; a song I first heard and fell in love with when I heard Levon Helm sing it. Lakeman alongside Emillie and Beth Kay (aka Wildwood Kin) find a whole new significance to the song; which is a rarity indeed.
Seth Lakeman first came to prominence a few years ago when his album Kitty Jay was nominated for a Mercury Prize and the follow up; Freedom Fields actually ‘went Gold’ making him the darling of the ‘big papers’ and BBC Radio 2. This is a completely new direction for the Devonian; and while there is nothing here that Simon Mayo could play on his afternoon radio show; this album, with Lakeman’s amazing voice and it’s Southern Gothic/Appalachian sound and feel could very well cross over the Atlantic in a ‘Coals to Newcastle’ way and breathe new life into his already successful career in the Americas.
Released September 16th 2016