Seth Lakeman is without a doubt one of the big names in modern English-folk music, and there is certainly a palpable excitement around his new release from die-hard fans and admirers (he is as physically adored as Laura Marling – which is saying something) alike. Word Of Mouth is the new album in question, and coming from a man as rooted in our folk scene as Seth Lakeman, you can have no doubt that it is a record you will enjoy.
As has become a sort of tradition with Seth Lakeman albums, the inspiration comes from real people through interviews with his locals, discussing everything from working on the railroads to young women in the Cornish mines. So this isn’t a new groundbreaking idea from Lakeman, but it certainly has its heart in the right place and is still undeniable proof of his absurd talent and ability to spin beauty from normal life.
Word Of Mouth begins with a sort of plummeting noise as the strings immediately evoke a strange, eerie atmosphere in The Wanderer, fitting for perhaps meeting a mysterious stranger on a dark moor. Seth Lakeman’s talents certainly lie in his stirring storytelling, that seamlessly dips into mythology and folklore, and this is certainly no different. But from the first few songs it becomes obvious that he has added something new. At its most basic, there just seems more power, more urgency to Word Of Mouth, than anything Lakeman has done previously.
However, having said that, it seems as a result of this, the softer ballads are the ones that shine through. Songs such as Bells and Portrait Of My Wife are nothing less than beautiful. I should stress that these are tracks that may pass you by if you simply have your iPod in on the train or wherever, because they are the type that need to be appreciated lyrically to really have an effect. ‘Raise your glass to the one you love,’ in Portrait Of My Wife won’t fail to stir in you some personal feeling of your own, and it seems almost hard to believe that his heartfelt descriptions of his lost wife aren’t real. Just listening to it makes you long to be stood, beer in hand, holding it up to him on stage in memory of this fictional woman.
The more urgent songs I meantioned, such as Last Rider and The Ranger, have such energy behind them that it doesn’t even matter if we’ve heard this kind of thing before, because just the fact that you can hear his connection to it, and feel the work and passion behind it, means that you are committed to his style no matter what. When he cries ‘North, South, East, West, at the crossroads I will die’ in The Ranger, you don’t doubt for a second that he’s out there travelling this journey himself, feeling its pain and its toil.
So if you were hoping for something a bit different, or a twist in the Seth Lakeman story, then you may be a little disappointed. But that isn’t to say it isn’t good, because of course it is, it’s Seth Lakeman! Word Of Mouth has beauty in abundance, and enough energy to match any full folk orchestra, so just take your time, find a quiet room and start appreciating folk music at its best.