By Seth Lakeman
The significance of Seth Lakeman is often understated in an indie-music scene that has shown a dynamic shift from to rock to folk over the course of the last 5 years. Indeed, the success of the likes of Mumford and Marling could be seen to be in no small part accredited to Seth Lakeman and his deconstructing of the dusty tweed that surrounded traditional folk music through his 2005 Mercury nominated breakthrough 'Kitty Jay.'
Regardless, five years is a long time in music, and now on his fourth album Seth Lakeman seems to have been caught short of fresh offerings. While choosing to focus on the personal struggles of the 'real man' he uses his growing influences of rock to turn his traditional songs into marching chants to varying degrees of success.
'The Watchman' rings true as a fine slice of Levellers, and encapsulates something only to be dreamed of by the likes of Tom Morello's own overtly political acoustic solo project. Meanwhile, tracks such as 'Hard-Working Man' lacks the bite to become the Union rally cry it desires to be.
The real highlights come in the form of the traditional tales that made his 2005 Mercury nominated album so endearing. Despite circulating around Cornish tales of old there was a tenderness and urgency that was completely immersive. The low-key 'Changes' literally bubbles with sounds of the sea as a wandering bass line warbles. While elsewhere the 'Preachers Ghost,' a bold tale inspired by the folk tale the King's Son, is filled with a dramatic chorus to create an astounding finale and the album's most inspired moment.
However, relying on the same tricks as five years ago, serves as his greatest pit fall. In being his fourth album there is little in the way of positive growth to the point of when pitted against his previous efforts they tend to blend facelessly into one another.
This is not to suggest that 'Hearts and Minds' is anything other than another solid effort of traditional songs but in furthering the possibilities of folk he's been left wanting and surpassed by his present day peers. But with the pessimist suggesting Lakeman's peak of mainstream success has now come to pass, there is plenty here to offer the already loyal fans.
So, it would seem by the arrival of his fourth album, Seth Lakeman has found himself in an unfortunate catch-twenty two for an artist still hoping to further his sound and fan-base, and that is on the tracks that show any sign of development aren't up to scratch, tending to be hollow shells of protest songs. However, the tracks that fall well within the confines of his comfort zone will do no more than reaffirm his talents to those already acquainted with his work who proclaim him as Cornwall's true best kept secret.