Seth Lakeman – Tales From The Barrel House [Review]

I was late to the party on this one, I’ll admit that. Worst of all, I heard about it via my parents. I figure when you hear about an album by a musician you really love, especially when they’ve been one of the regular artists to grace your sound system over the last few years, the last people you expect to should hear it from are your parents.

I’ve been a big fan of Seth Lakeman and his pop folk fusion since the release of his third album Freedom Fields back in 2006. It’s a great combination of that truly british classic folk story telling, beautifully combined with the catchy hooks and melodies of good pop song writing. Over the course of his five previous records Seth has pushed this through not only his superb song writing, but with increasing bombast and slick production. What he has created can easily cross the divide and appeal to both the snobby folk muso and the casual listener [parent]. This is why, when the new album finally landed on my doorstep and I began my first listen I was quite shocked to find a back to basics approach with an incredibly raw sound.

What becomes clear is that this may be one of the most honest sounding album’s I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. It’s almost effortlessly confident in it’s telling and execution. The liner notes inform that the opening track, More than Money (catch the video after the jump) was recorded down the George and Charlotte copper mine at Morwellham Quay, Devon and the rest at The Barrelhouse – also at Morwellham Quay. At its core, this is what Seth Lakemans music is all about. Its folk music, it tells a tale. There’s always been a story there in the lyrics (that’s stating the obvious) but the context of these songs are really pushed to the forefront knowing where it has been recorded. It’s a romantic concept but it also serves a purpose and really brings the relevance of those lyrics to life.

The songs themselves are typical Seth Lakeman fare with foot stomping, fiddle and tenor guitar all there. If you’ve heard any previous albums you’ll know what to expect and this is no bad thing. Catchy sing-a-long choruses, addictive melodies and verses that tell the tale made easier by crystal clear delivery in vocals. Soft ballads slow the flow of the album and punctuate the more uplifting tracks and the sombre Salt From Our Veins builds wonderfully, a real highlight on the album.

Compared to Hearts and Minds (2010), this is a very different album. It is closer to the 2004 release Kitty Jay in terms of sound and execution and this is a great thing.

Seth Lakeman continues to impress and while this may not be a chart contender, it’s a far more relevant and subtle album that really conveys the author’s passion and ideas. I look forward to hearing what’s next.


Seth Lakeman is on tour in the UK right now, you can catch him at the following (follow the link for more dates!)

15.12.2011 SOUTHAMPTON The Brook
16.12.2011 HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome
17.12.2011 FROME Cheese & Grain

Album Links:

‘More Than Money’ official video