Folk Songs the Seth Lakeman Way

Sun 20th March, 2011 @ 5:47pm by anniesmith

Folk Songs the Seth Lakeman Way

Review of Seth Lakeman's gig at Sub91, Granby Street, Leicester, on March 17th 2011

Leicester has had its fair share of visits from Seth Lakeman in recent years. The De Montfort Hall, twice; The Donkey, a pre-tour warm up gig and surely the smallest venue you’re likely to see the likes of Seth performing in; and Leicester Cathedral as the opener to last year’s Castle Park Festival. Last night it was Sub91’s turn to host this energetic wonder from the world of folk music. Performing on this tour as a trio with current full-time band member (and Bellowhead musician), Benji Kirkpatrick, on guitar and bazouki, and bodhran virtuoso, Cormac Byrne, Seth has chosen to return to some of his former material which he feels is best suited to this stripped down formation.

His loyal audience was not disappointed by this approach, as Seth whipped them up into a frenzy with Race to be King, The Bold Knight, King and Country, Blood red Sky, The Colliers and the ever-amazing Kitty Jay – his exquisite fiddle playing topped by his own singing while playing, a defining sound for this remarkable musician. Giving in at last to the pleading shouts from the crowd, we were even treated to White Hare, the only folk song I’ve heard being played over the PA in Morrisons on a Saturday afternoon.

Talking before the gig, Seth mused over his cross-over popularity on the back of such hits as White Hare and on his place within the current definition of ‘folk music’ in these post-Mumford & Sons times. Given the list of new tags attached to the genre – alt, young tradition, psychedelic, etc – where did he see himself? For Seth, folk songs are above all representative of people and places: characters, stories, events, legends and the human condition form his inspiration. The story is everything. While he thinks there would be those purists who would not even acknowledge his place as a true folk artist, despite his being described as ‘the man who put the OK back into folk music’, there is no denying his songs, and his playing, fit the bill for most of us.

Seth proceeded to prove that during the gig by airing some of his newest songs inspired by stories of artisans, past and present, around his home county of Devon. The Blacksmith’s Prayer, Artisan, Hard Road (about the closing of a Plymouth factory) and the Watchmaker’s Rhyme, all paint pictures of the skilled and dedicated workers who have helped to create the artefacts people have come to rely on and sadly, in our days of easy technological advance, take for granted or finally even overlook.

Seth enjoys researching his subject matter. One story he particularly likes is that of the ancient right to build a house on Dartmoor, without any permissions or land purchasing, as long as you complete it in one day – from dawn till dusk. The last house to comply with this obscure right was completed in 1920 and still stands!

This new material is destined for recording during May and June this year, with the album launch and tour planned for Autumn. The studio and producer are still being debated but one thing is certain – last night’s audience are already loving the songs and can’t wait!

The support was a young Leicester musician, Martha Bean, who is a rising star on the local circuit. She's a singer songwriter, classically trained on a number of instruments but self taught on the guitar since first picking one up at the age of 15. Her introspective songs and strong intricate vocals, with a flavour of early Joan as Policewoman, held the crowd spellbound and she radiated a composure and gentle strength that overcame any nerves about supporting someone as illustrious as Seth himself. Look out for her also playing with additional accompaniment from the excellent Joel Evans. Martha is currently recording an EP for release in summer - check out 'Dream a Little Dream' on her website (, with Joel on bass, recorded at Demon FM.


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