Seth Lakeman’s eighth studio album is a stunning collaboration between his dynamic song-writing, the genius of legendary producer ETHAN JOHNS and the sublime harmony backing vocals of emerging girl trio Wildwood Kin. Between them they have conjured up an epic, soulful album of intense songs that are stripped back to their very essence.

Ethan has produced albums for the likes of Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Ray LaMontagne, Laura Marling, The Staves and Crosby, Stills and Nash. He says ” The kind of record I like captures human performance.” He agreed to produce the album after Seth sent him one roughly recorded song on his mobile phone, with the trio of girls adding their lush harmonies to the cult folk singer’s gritty lead vocals.

They recorded the 11 tracks ‘live’ with an organic, acoustic vibe created in the great hall of a Jacobean Manor House and the album oozes with the atmosphere of this setting. The spiritual-sounding songs have a trance-like quality. They encompass evocative contemporary messages, yet have an ethereal sound as if they have been hanging in the air for centuries. Ethan has let nothing impair the raw, visceral content – just enshrined the pure sounds of voices and ringing instruments.

The mood is set from track one. Seth’s soaring vocals are perfectly complimented by the seamless harmonies of Wildwood Kin – two sisters and a cousin who are also from Devon and who he met at a local charity gig. He was immediately struck by their effortless ability to create intuitive harmonies.

There is Seth’s trademark stomp, his swooping, sighing and aching fiddle and viola, and strident electric tenor guitar. Multi-instrumentalist Ethan can’t resist joining in on subtle underlying “dirty” electric guitar, mandolin and even hurdy-gurdy!

Seth has relentlessly continued to push his musical boundaries since the Mercury Prize nominated “Kitty Jay”, the follow-up gold selling “Freedom Fields” and his last offering, “Word of Mouth” , a deft collection of mini musical biographies of colourful West Country characters.

“Ballads of the Broken Few” has seven original tracks plus a striking cover of “Anna Lee”, the Laurelyn Dossett song from Levon Helm’s Grammy-winning ” Dirt Farmer” album. Seth has also revisited the Cecil Sharp House archive which featured in “The Full English” project, which resulted him and other leading British folk musicians claiming “Best Group” and “Best Album” at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. He has re-worked several traditional broadsides, including ” The Stranger” and “The Willow Tree, and there is also his take on a 19th century moralistic song, “Pulling Hard Against the Stream”.

With “Ballads of the Broken Few” Seth demonstrates that he is not complacent and is constantly exploring new and bold musical paths.

Release date: 16 September 2016

National Press – Claire Horton