The Lake Poets
The Lake Poets
Beautiful Collection of Sad Songs From a Northern Town.
I first encountered The Lake Poets four or five years ago when a bunch of young, local musicians collaborated on a Charity Christmas album. My subsequent review for a local newspaper, was glowing in the extreme as I expected several of the acts to go on to huge careers within months.
Sadly the majority have disappeared into the hum drum world of proper jobs; and I feared the same fate was due to befall The Lake Poets aka Martin Longstaff.
Over the next couple of years Martin appeared to be working very hard; releasing a couple of singles and picking up gigs as when he could get them outside the area, then he all but disappeared until earlier this year.
Quite randomly he began posting photos from Nashville on Social Media; but with no real back story; even the ones of him strumming classic guitars in a recording studio.
Then an announcement was made that he had been signed to Dave Stewart’s management company and an album; produced by the Ex-Eurythmic was imminent.
E-mails were immediately sent to Martin and the management; but nothing in return, so with a heavy heart I have actually purchased this album (as a download).
The self-titled album opens with possibly the saddest song I’ve heard in years. Inhabiting the guise of a child watching his father continuously physically abuse his mother, Martin takes an incredibly bleak subject and turns it into a thing of rare beauty.
I still have a demo of second track, Edinburgh and at first hearing there is very little difference between the two tracks; Martin singing and playing guitar; but the album version, when listened to on headphones proves what a genius producer Dave Stewart is. He coaxes out a brittle vocal performance that makes Nick Drake sound like Bono; and the barely heard piano in the background makes a song of heartbreak something incredibly special indeed.
While Martin has a wonderful way with words, and uses metaphors and irony like confetti, there aren’t many laughs here at all; with every track detailing memories of family members, friends or ex-lovers with a surprisingly intimate use of wordplay.
I’m thrilled that North View is here; as again I heard it in its original form, and even then it was a thing of rare beauty as Martin sings a love song to his recently departed Grandparents. This version is the nearest thing to Folk on the album; with some scintillating guitar and fiddle in the background.
Two new songs (to me), Vane Tempest and Shipyards follow each other and both are subtle ‘protest songs’ cloaked in the memories of loved ones who worked in coal mining and shipbuilding.
Vane Tempest was the rather pretty name for a colliery in nearby South Shields, that ran for a couple of miles under the sea. The singer’s father keeps telling him in the fragile chorus; ‘there will come a time/for people like you and me/you can be the man you want to be you’ meaning; he may not have had any other choices of employment; but his son most surely will and he was to ‘follow his dreams.’ My father; a proud collier too, was a great advocate of education for his five sons and went on to see us all make careers away from the pit-village we were born into.
Shipyards is a glorious love song to his home town’s proud history of shipbuilding and the proud workers therein; who have all but gone now. The narrator wants his forefathers blessing in pursuing a life elsewhere, that isn’t anywhere near as hard nor dangerous. Not every protest song has to be shouty and tub-thumping.
One song, Your Face is featured twice, with a ‘radio edit’ shoehorned onto the end; as the album version has a swear word in the lyric; but that is very forgiveable on this exceptional tale of unrequited love.
My favourite track here, 1996 is also the first song I heard by The Lake Poets on that Christmas CD.
This love song to a friend, no longer here, was stunning in its simplicity when I first heard it all those years ago; and Dave Stewart’s production has taken it into a whole new stratosphere; supporting Martin’s crystal clear voice with warm backing vocals and a strummed acoustic guitar somehow sounding like an orchestra.
The stories and songs included here are all quite dark but exquisitely well written and performed; but will appeal to anyone with a heart full of soul.
With the likes of Ed Shearan and Sam Smith becoming stars; the world must now be ready for the Lake Poets.