Eight albums in and Seth Lakeman remains the face of folk music here in the UK. Since the release of his 2002 debut The Punch Bowl, Lakeman has established himself a folk pioneer and built on his success with every album release. His 2008 release Poor Man’s Heaven remains his highest-charting album and his 2014 release Word of Mouth peaked at number 18, giving him his highest chart position in 4 years. His latest album, Ballads of the Broken Few sees him teaming up with female vocal harmony trio Wildwood Kin.
Ballads of the Broken Few sees Lakeman taking a different approach to his music. After experimenting with his sound and coming up with more organic material on his last two records, Lakeman has worked with producer Ethan Johns to strip back his sound even further. Opening track Willow Tree establishes the mood of the album with dramatic violin melodies driving the song and Wildwood Kin adding depth with their tight harmonies.
The way in which Lakeman uses Wildwood Kin is a big part of the album’s success. On the more up-tempo track Ballad of the Broken Few, the trio’s harmonies soar in and out throughout the track adding weight to Lakeman’s words and power to the overall sound of the song. On Whenever I’m Home they elevate the song past it’s stripped-back sound enabling it to really take flight.
Elsewhere on the record Silver Threads is one of the most under-stated yet powerful songs, Stranger is pretty dreamy and Innocent Child rocks a slightly harder edge that is harsher than the other songs included here and veers almost into Fleetwood Mac territory.
One of the finest moments on the record comes on Silence Reigns. The arrangement is so simple that it really lets Lakeman’s distinctive vocals shine and the warmth added by Wildwood Kin is a breath of fresh air. The song overall still has a dark and brooding tone, but there’s a lighter feel to it than other tracks across the record.
Ballads of the Broken Few further showcases why Lakeman is still at the top of his game after all these years. He’s not afraid to do something new and he always stays true to who he is. There’s no attempt to follow a more commercial path for success and in an industry that makes it near impossible to achieve success, Lakeman is winning in all the right ways. Ballads of the Broken Few is a haunting and atmosphere listen and it’s one of the finest records Lakeman has released to date.
Track Listing: 1. Willow Tree 2. Silence Reigns 3. Meet Me In The Twilight 4. Stranger 5. Fading Sound 6. Ballad of the Broken Few 7. Anna Lee 8. Innocent Child 9. Whenever I’m Home 10. Silver Threads 11. Pulling Hard Against the Stream Record Company: Cooking Vinyl Release Date: 16th September 2016