Seth Lakeman - Ballads of the Broken Few (Cooking Vinyl)

Backed by Wildwood Kin's stunning harmonies, the British folk singer's new set is an excellent addition to a storied catalogue

Released Sep 15th, 2016 via Cooking Vinyl / By Jethro West
Seth Lakeman - Ballads of the Broken Few (Cooking Vinyl)Like a king to rest in the brightest palace halls of the far and golden west”, closes the beautifully sunny fourth track, ‘Meet Me in the Twilight’, of Seth Lakeman’s latest studio album. It’s a lyric that sweetens the truly poignant core of Ballads of the Broken Few, standing proud as an ode to a resurgence in the power and viscerality of British folk.

And it just so happens that the 12 tracks for the record were cut ‘live’ in the great-hall of a Jacobean manor house. ‘Fitting’ doesn’t quite cover Lakeman’s authentic and ingenious approach to musical creation which has won him many previous accolades including "Best Album" at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

‘Willow Tree’ opens Ballads..., a brilliantly bluesy number immediately citing the ethereal harmonies of Wildwood Kin - two sisters (Emillie and Beth Key) and their cousin (Meghann Loney). The vocal medley hangs perfectly aloof of the infectious stomp and emotionally strained viola, inviting nothing but foot and head bopping.

Frantic and frustrated, ‘Fading Sound’ is Lakeman’s first distinctive narrative about the angst of a man who’s losing the lady of his heart, “like a million times before he kicks the red dust on the floor”. Every line, every utterance evokes a new organic layer to the soundscape and leaves the listener ruminating about love.

Sassy electric-guitar that warbles like the air in the heat of the Wild West super-charges the title track with a refrain to match that of Hozier’s. More of the same and an added dose of the mandolin (which incidentally really works) comprises ‘Innocent Child’ whilst a delicately plucked ‘Silver Threads’ rounds off a truly heart-warming and lyrically sophisticated album: “Every year that passes you will be an evergreen etched against the sky”.

Lakeman and Wildwood Kin have crafted tender and soulful tracks worthy of being named ‘ballads’ and demonstrating why European folk* stacks up against its Western counterpart.

* (Ballads of the Broken Few takes note of the popularity of Nordic folk and makes very effective use of the hurdy-gurdy!)