Seth Lakeman // Tales From The Barrel House

May 3rd, 2012


We’re a bit late on this one; six months as it turns out. But those full five gold stars should key you in that six or six hundred months is no reason not to appreciate and praise this stellar collection of stories from the Devonshire folk treasure Seth Lakeman. His mastery of many instruments, nack for nostalgic and upsettingly honest lyricism makes him a mainstay in the indie fests across the country. This is his sixth studio release as a solo artist, and in it he puts salt, sweat and manly, manly tears.

It’s rare that the first song can be one’s favourite, but ‘More Than Money’ does it with a smashing rhythm appropriate to its lyrical tale of men burdened by the underground. Couple that with the tamed yet not tired banjo and fiddle and a commanding voice that quivers with conviction.

Blacksmiths: they had to feature somewhere. Like many of the dying professions showcased in these songs, the second track ‘Blacksmith’s Prayer’ sums up the noble art in its rhythm and structure; the build up before the drop three minutes evokes dual images of men tiring themselves through instruments of their craft; one with a banjo, the other a hammer.

‘The Watchmaker’s Rhyme’s chorus is timeless as it is catchy, whilst ‘Hard Road’ feels a little closer to the old school folk styling’s of Show of Hands and similar acts. The latter does showcase the one album flaw; a reliance on certain vocal techniques and styles, but too much of a good thing is still a good thing in my opinion. ‘The Sender’ slows thing down, and evokes a peaceful west country atmosphere remembered by the youthful and the well worn, whilst ‘Salt in Our Veins’ boasts arguably some of the most beautiful viola you’ll ever hear; easily the finest in this album.

The best of the ‘tales’ lies confined in ‘Brothers of Penryn’; a certainly darker tale for this modern day bard, though it is the only unoriginal song, with roots in old Cornish folk. Alongside the first track this is one of three that can sum up the album, the third being the final track ‘The Artisan’, a brooding homage to the carpenter that celebrates the joy a job can bring over its pay.

As a whole the pieces all welcome each other’s presence; there isn’t anything distinctive or new being done here, but by sticking to what Seth is known for he makes each instrument a friend. As each new song clicks on we welcome the personality and character each musical tool brings, like giving a group of weary travellers shelter for one night, then waiting patiently for their next visit.

If this isn’t your bag when it comes to music then you’ll know whether to pass or not by the wood that covers 42% of the front cover. However this collection of songs celebrating the best of Britain’s heritage and slowly fading musical styles preaches to the choir so loud you’ll probably have to at least see what the fuss is about.

Words > Graham Ashton


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