Category: Reviews

What’s On South West caught up with Seth before the Plymouth gig for one of the few interviews from the recent mini-tour.

The interview chats about the inspiration behind the Brand! New! Songs! which gripped audiences at the recent gigs, and throws in a few festival rumours (Glasto, V Festival, Ireland’s Electric Picnic ??) for good measure.

Interview (including audio version)
‘Seth Lakeman returns to Plymouth for intimate show’
Clare Robinson, What’s On South West, March 2009

Seth Lakeman at The White Rabbit, Plymouth, 24 Mar 09
Clare Robinson, What’s On South West, March 2009

With thanks to @stokes_the_fire via the TwitterFeed for the heads-up

“Seth Lakeman nearly stole the show from Jamie Cullum at the “British at Midem” concert with a rousing set, proving that his violin-driven folk can translate internationally.” – ‘The future of the music industry’, The Independent, Fri 23 Jan 2009

Midem is the annual gathering of the international music industry in Cannes France. Seth performed alongside General Fiasco, Patrick Wolf, and Jamie Cullum on Monday night.

Autumn Tour 2008: Round-up pt II

See also:
Seth Lakeman Autum Tour 2008 update (pt I)
Seth Lakeman Autumn Tour Dates

Photo by Alan Cole
More of Alan’s photos from Bristol 2008 »

Stand-in Drummer Simon Lea

Simon Lea continues to stand in for regular percussionist, Andy Tween, who has injured his wrist. Andy made a short-lived return for his home gig in Bristol (29 Oct), as well as for Bournemouth and Cheltenham (12/13 Nov) at which he hoped he was back for the rest of the tour, but Simon has covered drumming duties since.

Gig reviews

Shades of Caruso awards Seth the Emphatically Non-Hipster Non-Douchebag Recommendation Of The Week in a well-written review of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig, plus a quick run-down and of Seth’s career to-date including videos clips

Over on A Million Miles from Here A Night in the Church of the Black T-Shirt » is a detailed gig write-up of the same London gig, plus videos of popular support act Baskery, and live performances of Haunt You (shot at SBE) and Kitty Jay (not)

In The Times (10 Nov 2008) David Sinclair writes “Lakeman put on a show that would have been as acceptable at the Reading Festival as it would at the Cambridge Folk Festival … As the lights darkened and an ominous peal of thunder rumbled from the PA, it was more like the beginning of the first Black Sabbath album… Yet the 31-year-old singer was armed with nothing more threatening than an acoustic guitar”. Poor Man’s Heaven represents a more mainstream direction for this reviewer, and Lakeman “clearly has his eyes on bigger prizes… but it was still the old numbers that elicited the most raucous response, notably Blood upon Copper and Kitty Jay, both of which featured Lakeman in trad fiddler mode and brought out the best in his playing. ”

“It’s not that Seth’s music is bad” Rob Garrett dissents in his review for the Norwich Evening News (5 Nov 2008) “it’s just a bit dull, and it isn’t folk.” Although he goes on to praise Seth’s “strong, evocative voice” he nonetheless finds “the whole thing all falls flat on its face a little”.

Emma Hardwick, on the other hand, is keen to assure readers of the Leicester Mercury (12 Nov 2008) that “If you’re off to a Seth Lakeman gig you can rest assured he will put everything into the evening and you can leave with a smile on your face … The sheer energy of his set, where he sings, plays frenetic fiddle and a drum at the same time is infectious.” Although Kitty Jay is the “sure-fire crowd pleaser … the rest of the set didn’t disappoint”

The tour continues to 18 November

I don’t normally blog about other people’s blogs on here, but this is both an amusing review of Seth’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig (at which there were allegedly “exactly zero hipster douchebags”) and good general intro to Seth’s career post Mercury Prize nomination from back in the days when, the writer says, “I must still have been thinking that the award was still relevant and inspiring … because I watched the preview show, which featured Lakeman. I was blown away by his musicianship and haunting, resonant songs, many of which were arrangements of traditional English airs.”

Arguably all the better for not being an uncritical fanboy/girl, and definitely recommended if your love for “Handsome Seth Lakeman” is still in its infancy, or you’ve accidentally arrived here looking for something else and are now intrigued.

Shades of Caruso: Emphatically Non-Hipster Non-Douchebag Recommendation Of The Week: Seth Lakeman »

Seth makes an impression at Greenbelt

Also don’t miss Caroline Voaden’s fantastic photos

Robin Denselow reviews this year’s visit to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre last Sunday, complete with the predictable “altercations between would-be dancers and officials who clearly hadn’t expected such behaviour from a folk audience”. (The dancers won.)

Lakeman has brought folk to new audiences by taking strong narratives and treating them with relentless attack… The results were often spectacular, from the furious Take No Rogues to The Hurlers, a stomper about young men being turned to stone for playing sport rather than going to church. There was a drama and urgency that didn’t vary even when he slowed down for the declamatory Greed and Gold, or when he played solo, backed by his own foot-stomping violin on Kitty Jay.

Ultimately, however, he gives our hero a mere 3 out of 5, complaining that he lacked:

… variety – not in the instrumentation, but in the tone. He said Solomon Browne was “the most poignant song” on his new album, but this story of the 1981 Penlee lifeboat disaster was treated as yet another rhythmic romp, and the audience clapped along incongruously to this modern tragedy. Lakeman deserves his success, but a good storyteller needs to match excitement with soul and emotion.

Full review: ‘Folk Review: Seth Lakeman, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’ by Robin Denselow, The Guardian, Wed 27 Aug 2008 »

‘Glastonbury 2008: Acoustic Stage’, Virtual Festivals, 1 July 2008 »

Updated 4 July 2008 with review from the Manchester Evening News.

With the album release just days away hitting the shops this morning the reviews are coming thick and fast. Most reviewers who can avail themselves of a simplistic star rating seem to be plumping for a 3 out of 5. Breaking the mould Mojo magazine gives it a 4 in its July issue, while The Times slates it with just 2 stars in a review which largely misses the point.

Overall there has clearly been much head-scratching as to exactly what kind of music the reviewers are listening to, a defiance of genre which several clearly have trouble getting past, as if a record can only be good when it can be pigeon-holed. Combined with too many lazy stereotypes about arran sweatered, beer drinking, finger-in-the-ear folkies which display a trying, if predictable, ignorance of modern folk music from people who ought to know better, my review of the reviewers could be summed up as: 3 out of 5, must try harder.

Top Reviews: “If you are a fan of Lakeman then everything you love is here in spades”

Spiral Earth, 27 June 2008 in what is unsurprisingly one of the best informed and least cliched reviews, sums it up neatly: “If you are a fan of Lakeman then everything you love is here in spades.”. Though Iain Hazelwood does possibly get a little carried away when he writes that while “Much is being said of it sounding like this or that, more rock, more Led Zep… Actually it only sounds like one thing – Seth Lakeman becoming one of the most important artists in modern British music…” (my emphasis). Full review.

In The Guardian, 27 June 2008 (3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars) Alexis Petridis comes closest to capturing the reaction of the fans who have availed themselves of the various previews when he says “the album is at its best when it’s at its most raw, when it stops worrying too much about charming those in charge of radio playlists and lets Lakeman’s natural instinct for eeriness shine through.” Full review.

Mojo Magazine, July 2008. (4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars) was one of the first to mention the now oft-repeated Led Zep vibe: “Seth Lakeman burns high octane non-stop. On this fourth album his voice is all muscularity and barely contained passions… Beneath a superficial folk-rock jigginess his band has a possibly Led Zeppelin related sense of how acoustic fiddle, guitar and double bass riffs can weigh heavy as metal.”

The Telegraph, 28 June 2008 thumbs its nose at the genre-befuddled head-scratchers: “while Lakeman’s music might cause consternation among those who are troubled by the blurring of musical categories, the wider world will doubtless enjoy it, because this is an album that’s memorably melodic, propulsively rhythmic, and sometimes hair-raisingly dramatic…it’s powerful stuff, with Lakeman’s clear, strong voice narrating a series of sharp and gripping story-songs” Full Review.

The Also Rans: “A ripsnorter of a record”

The Independent, 27 June 2008 (3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars) gets it’s cliches in early in a generally positive review: “Lakeman may be only as temporarily beholden to the notoriously purist folk scene as Bob Dylan was in 1965″ (my emphasis). Full review.

In The Times, 27 June 2008 (2/5 stars2/5 stars2/5 stars2/5 stars2/5 stars) John Mulvey leaves us wondering if he’s listened to any of the artists in question when he describes Poor Man’s Heaven as “uncomfortably reminiscent of records by David Gray and Damien Rice” Full review.

The Observer, 15 June 2008 describes it as “a ripsnorter of a record that will slake the thirst of crowds roused by a season of his festival performances” and may have a point when it asks whether “after four albums of much the same fayre, our West Country hero might usefully stray into fresh songwriting territory next time, and lose the roll call of cliches which demand that eyes are always burning, nights always dark and dawns crimson.” Full review.

BBC Online, 13 June 2008 – “His song writing continues the gold-yielding formula of its predecessor with energetic strumalongs, voracious fiddles and a sparkling delivery”. Full review.

Q Magazine, Andy Fyfe, July 2008. (3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars) “The frantic fiddle remains dominant but guitars and drums crash all around it, Feather in a Storm even adding Jimmy Page-esque slide guitar. Lakeman’s unwelcome mantle of folk’s poster boy is unlikely to slip.”, 27 June 2008 (3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars) on the other hand finds it “predictable and polished” … “overly refined” …and “the repetition of literary and musical themes creates a staleness after 11 tracks which makes absorption of the album as a whole rather challenging”. Full review.

Teletext (7/10), 27 June 2008 thinks he is “back on form after the bland and overly commercial Freedom Fields” and “should win back hardcore folk fans”. Much as we love a positive review, it does leave you wondering if they have actually listened to either album. Full review.

Virgin ‘Albums of the Week’ (6/10), 27 June 2008 does rather better: “Lakeman highlights the rhythmic and percussive elements of the folk genre while retaining its strong pastoral spirit”. Full review.

Metro, 29 June 2008(4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars4/5 stars) gets little swept along by the album’s dramatic imagery into some flowery language of its own: “wired with the same stirring, ale-sodden acoustica of previous works… this time the sound is larger and more urgent…[and] throb[s] with the animal energy of a live performance.” Full review.

Winning the WTF? prize The Manchester Evening News, 3 July 2008 (3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars3/5 stars) clearly have a different take on tales of murder, vengeance and self-sacrifice than most when they find it missing “some of the darkness and dourness which Richard Thompson has always found in that territory between folk and rock.”. Full review »

Seth Lakeman on the Glastonbury Acoustic Stage (photo by Jaine Keskeys)

Updated 8 July 2008 with Jaine Keskeys’ great photograph
Updated 30 June 2008 with Down on the Farm, The Guardian

Seth hit the Glastonbury Acoustic stage at 6.40pm on Saturday. Overlooked in the BBC’s coverage, save a small solo spot on the BBC2 highlights show at one o’clock in the morning, Lakeman’s set was nonetheless clearly one of his classic crowd winners.

“His effort was unrivalled, his performance was flawless.”

On the Glastonbury website Anna Blainey recounts the oft told tale of another accidental convert to Lakemania. Stumbling into the acoustic tent only because “three people … had told me in the last twenty four hours that he was one of the best acts they had seen” she was understandably worried that “with all these promises of Lakeman’s greatness… he would be completely awful.”

Clearly all prepared for the “lengthy arguments with people I’d rather not fall out with” that would ensue, she was totally won over by his “huge versatility” and “extraordinary voice…every intonation of it suggesting a phase of a song, and a story… sung with a unique raw expressiveness. And on top of this was his fiddle playing, executed with such speedy exuberance that he ended the set with a clump of shed horse hair hanging from the bow”.

TV Coverage

His TV performance of The Hurlers, solo and unaccompanied save his own urgent fiddle, is available to view and download from BBC iPlayer until 5 July or in rather blurrier form on YouTube (until the beeb spots it anyhow):

Down on the Guardian G2 Farm

The Guardian decided to test stars rural knowledge with their own miniature farm. Estelle, bless her, was confused by the absence of shops: “how do you get food, how do you eat in the country?”.

Moving swiftly on:

“Because I’m from the West Country, Glastonbury means a lot to me,” says folk star Seth Lakeman. “There’s a rich English heritage to Glastonbury, and there’s a lot of meaning when you play those songs about people from round this area.” Lakeman lives on the edge of Dartmoor, and says the landscape is an inspiration to him. Many of his school friends are now farmers, and he says they often ask him when he’s going to get a proper job. He used to help bale hay when he was younger. “It’s tough on your hands,” he says.

Down on the farm, The Guardian, 30 June 2008 »