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Seth Lakeman – Tales From The Barrel House (Review)

Seth Lakeman, Taken From The Barrel House

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WITH Seth Lakeman you pretty much know what you’re going to get right now. And that’s a rousing form of fiddle-based folk that is full of heartfelt sentiments and raw honesty. You’re also going to get quality.

From The Barrel House delivers more of the same, albeit with a greater dose of independence. Tired of the studio system, he has thrown off the shackles to form his own label, rely on his own skills and deliver another terrific album.

A love letter of sorts to his beloved Devon, it’s a record that appreciates the classic values, whether that’s in the instrumentals or the subject matter. Hence, there are odes here to the blacksmiths, watch-makers, cider-makers, and tin miners that are in danger of disappearing.

He also recorded the album in the type of environments that reflect their subject matter as the majority of songs were captured in the disused barrel house of the album’s title, while opener More Than Money saw Lakeman descending into the depths of a copper mine to capture the type of sound he was seeking.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to find that this steadfastly independent approach has also been captured, instrumentally, by Lakeman himself… switching between fiddle and guitar to banjo and cello at various points.

The result is a cracking good listen – thought provoking, occasionally moving and delivered with the same vocal conviction we’ve long come to expect from this folk poster boy.

Highlights include the aforementioned album opener More Than Money, which kicks off with amid rousing beats and banjo licks, before making good use of its copper mine acoustics. It’s a rousing starting point that recalls the vibrancy of one of Lakeman’s previous classics, Tiny World. The lyrics, meanwhile, pack a powerful punch with the overriding sentiment that there are more things than money to bring you down.

Blacksmiths Prayer is a fine example of the album at its most brooding and poignant, reflecting the concerns of its title subject in sobering fashion, while The Watchmaker’s Rhyme has a tick-tock percussion and a barn-storming violin to accompany its imagery-strewn tale.

Violins are again to the fore on the gritty Hard Road, which talks of ‘sordid streets’ and being alone, while there’s a welcome shot of romanticism on the slow-burning The Sender, which really draws out the vocal range of this talented performer. It’s a heart-melter par excellence.

Brother of Penryn offers a bloody tale of deception in rousing, fiddle-strewn fashion, Higher Walls once more recalls the cracking intensity of Tiny World while recounting another fascinating tale of hard living, and The Artisan rounds things off with a moving ballad to end the album on a powerful note.

All in all, it’s addictive, powerful and really rather excellent stuff, made all the more memorable for Lakeman’s DIY approach.

Download picks: More Than Money, The Watchmaker’s Rhyme, Hard Road, The Sender, Brother of Penryn, Higher Walls

Track listing:

  1. More Than Money
  2. Blacksmith’s Prayer
  3. The Watchmaker’s Rhyme
  4. Hard Road
  5. The Sender
  6. Salt From Our Veins
  7. Brother of Penryn
  8. Apple of His Eye
  9. Higher Walls
  10. The Artisan