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Seth Lakeman

Born 26th March 1977, Yelverton, Dartmoor in Devon, SETH LAKEMAN’s first ventures into music were distinctly family affairs – with his two siblings Sam and Sean as part of The LAKEMAN BROTHERS – Seth’s specialities being the violin and tenor guitar. The trio knocked out a debut platter `Three Piece Suite’ in 1994. They toured as an expanded quintet which evolved into a full-time concern EQUATION – the “brat-pack of Brit-folk with the brothers, KATHRYN ROBERTS and Sam’s soon-to-be wife and English folk star on the rise also: CARA DILLON. Through the odd personnel change, EQUATION ran for three celebrated albums during the 90s, fizzling out in 2001 and going on permanent hiatus.
Seth struck out on his own at this point via a solo debut PUNCHBOWL (2002) {*6}, a confident collection which showed LAKEMAN’s skills outside the family unit (although his brothers continued to appear in his live band and in-studio recordings – Sean was even producer). It credibly set out his stall as a solo concern; although he did collaborate with STEVE KNIGHTLEY (of SHOW OF HANDS) on his `Western Approaches’ set.
It was 2005 and KITTY JAY {*8} that was the game changer however, taking him over the top into mainstream territory like never before – a Mercury Music Prize nomination beckoned, as did tours with the likes of JOOLS HOLLAND, BILLY BRAGG and old friends the LEVELLERS.
Follow up FREEDOM FIELDS (2006) {*7} was no less compelling, and won album of the year at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, LAKEMAN’s fiddle finding a home among the strident rhythms. Seth’s crossover appeal was never in doubt but he seemed to be picking tips up from long-time friends the LEVELLERS for POOR MAN’S HEAVEN (2008) {*7}, an altogether more rockier proposition, a sound which, in all fairness, worked well as it hit the Top 10. He followed it with HEARTS AND MINDS (2010) {*6} which tried to consolidate the folk and rock sides of LAKEMAN’s personality, with limited success but for a brief Top 20 admission.
Escaping the confining aspects of releasing records for a major company, Seth was back on indie terra firma for his rootsy sixth solo set, TALES FROM THE BARREL HOUSE (2011) {*6}. While there was no question to the unique multi-tasking of bold singer-songwriter/violinist LAKEMAN, and backed by some pounding Sally Army backbeat, songs such as `More Than Money’, et al, seem stuck in a time and a place away from the bright lights of city life. But one supposes that was the point. Dealing with worthy tradesmen from his treasured home abode in Devon (i.e. `Blacksmith’s Prayer’, `The Watchmaker’s Rhyme’ and `The Artisan’), his conceptual farmhouse kitchen-sink dramas already reached out to the Brit-folk converted.
Cooking Vinyl Records promised folk’s pin-up hunk Top 20 chart consistency at least on his 2014 set, WORD OF MOUTH {*8}. Recorded in a church in North Tamerton, east Cornwall, Seth surrounded himself with live accompaniment by way of Cormac Byrne, Ben Nicholls, Lisbee Stainton and of course, brother Sean, while guest spots went to LAU’s accordionist Martin Green (on `Tiger’), banjoist Leon Hunt (on `Last Rider’) and cellist India Bourne (on opener `The Wanderer’). Stripping back to bare roots of English folk music, Seth and his entourage excel on these tracks, as well as `Another Long Night’ and `The Saddest Crowd’.
Teaming up with Exeter’s fast-rising alt-americana musicians/singers, WILDWOOD KIN (sisters Beth and Emillie Key and their cousin Meghann Loney), a collaborative SETH LAKEMAN served up his second Top 20 set for Cooking Vinyl, BALLADS OF THE BROKEN FEW (2016) {*7}. Lodged from a rustic time-warp stuck in the aires of a cabin high in the Appalachians (or indeed, an old Jacobean manor house studio with producer Ethan Johns), a STEVE EARLE-esque Seth crossed over the barriers between blues, gospel and folk music to bring yearning and sentiment through passionate pieces, including `Silence Reigns’, the heavenly `Willow Tree’ (one of three trad re-arrangements), `Innocent Child’ and the searching title track.
© MC Strong GFD2/MR // rev-up MCS Feb2014-Sep2016

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