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Seth Lakeman - Hearts and Minds

Seth Lakeman, Hearts & Minds

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ANOTHER week, another success story for the folk genre.

Seth Lakeman has long been considered one of the UK folk scene’s most influential contemporary artists and with fourth album, Hearts and Minds, he seeks to cement that position, while broadening his own sound.

Hence, the LP moves Lakeman into new sonic territory with the studio work of Tchad Blake, the producer and engineer internationally known for his work with the likes of Tom Wait, Crowded House, Black Keys and Elvis Costello.

It also seeks to take his story-telling to a new level, tackling contemporary issues such as the financial crash and the greed of politicians and the banking system, as on the title track Hearts and Minds, or the struggles of the working-man (Hard Working Man) and soldiers losing their lives in battle (Spinning Days). These are married with more personal themes involving love, loss and human struggle.

The sound is richer, too, with an even greater emphasis placed on folk-rock and some rousing violin and string movements underpinning a lot of the songs.

Album opener and title track Hearts and Minds is a robust starting point, which finds Lakeman in angry, feisty mood and delivering the type of anthemic rallying call that is to mark the more emphatic sound of the LP as a whole.

This stirring combination of guitars and violins is evident on The Watchman, too, which drops another strong chorus and some more bouts of thrilling violin work.

Tiny World, meanwhile, trades some classic folk elements with one of the album’s most radio-friendly choruses. It’s layered, intelligent and the sound of Lakeman at his very best.

Spinning Days, by contrast, strips things back to vocals, acoustic guitars and more subtle violin and banjo chords, to thereby enable the poingnant, emotive lyrics – about soldiers losing their lives in battle – to really resonate. It’s another of the album’s very best tracks.

Elsewhere, Lakeman’s penchant for dance-inducing ‘indie-folk’ is evident on the get-up-and-go See Them Dance, which will whip you into a merry jig, and on Signed and Sealed.

His more intimate, thought-provoking side, meanwhile, comes to the fore on the sparse and delicately delivered Changes, another highlight, and on Hard Working Man, which should appeal to the sensibility of any man or woman trying to make an honest living in the current economic climate.

Lakeman’s great talent, however, lies in his effortless ability to marry resonant lyrics (whether social or personal) to music that’s more inspiring and beautiful than preachy or heavy-handed. He tackles big themes in an enjoyable way.

Hearts and Minds is therefore another major step forward for him and – like we said – another string in the folk movement’s ever-impressive bow.

Read our interview with Seth Lakeman

Download picks: Hearts and Minds, Tiny World, Spinning Days Changes, Tender Traveller, The Circle Grows

Track listing:

  1. Hearts and Minds
  2. The Watchman
  3. Tiny World
  4. Spinning Days
  5. See Them Dance
  6. Stepping Over You
  7. Changes
  8. Signed and Sealed
  9. Tender Traveller
  10. Hard Working Man
  11. Preacher’s Ghost
  12. The Circle Grows