Seth Lakeman releases his eleventh album. Make Your Mark is a set that might see him elevated to ‘folk music institution’ status.
Release date: 19th November 2021
Label: Honour Oak Records
Format: CD / digital / vinyl
After a first exposure to the new songs on the recent tour, we get the full Make Your Mark experience. Fourteen songs in fact that make up Seth’s eleventh album. He’s joined on Make Your Mark, recorded at Middle Farm Studios in Devon, by a tried and trusted team including long-time bassist Ben Nicholls, who has toured the world with Seth for many years, plus Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzouki, banjo and mandolin. Plymouth-based musician Alex Hart adds her sublime backing vocals and Toby Kearney, principal percussionist at the Birmingham Conservatoire, is on drums.
In true organic fashion, the album is produced by Seth himself andr eleased on his own label, Honour Oak Records, with inspiration coming from from the environment to love, death and self-belief.“The pandemic gave me a real determination to come out musically stronger and I really dug deep into myself for this album” says Seth. “Being able to record and play with the band again was really quite spiritual.” You can imagine.
There’s a distinct organic live feel that inevitably comes from the bowing and the wooden instruments as he counts in several of the songs with cues to bring to us the feel of musicians playing together, live, in the same room. Standouts on first evidence are Love Will Still Remain (already elevated to the opening lot in concert) the excellent single Higher We Aspire and encore number Change. The former relies on a drone that evolves in to an ethnic fiddle line with the “remaaaiiiinnn” chorus and the restrained march that carries the tune forward. Perhaps some of the Robert Plant influence rubbing off on Seth – either that our our boy showing the sort of chops that attracted old Planty in the first place.
Change is one of those rattling encore songs that’s going to vie with race To Be King and Last Rider for the banjo and jaws harp driven charge at the end of the set hoedown. It’s just a few brass parts short of being a Bellowhead belter for the reunion that seems bound to come. Higher We Aspire similarly, sees the massed strumming accompanied by some delicate jewels of notes added by Benji on what could be the crossover number of the set. And while the jolly and jaunty continues withThe Giant – a pleasant little singalong part at the song’s conclusion “On the ocean, on the high seas, on the ocean” – there’s a fair share of sobriety and reflection making its mark.
The gentle strum with banjo decoration (Bound To Someone) or massed strings and philosophising on Constantly and the title track (“It isn’t what you’re made of, it isn’t what you see, it isn’t where you come from…It’s how you make your mark”) may have some yearning for Seth grabbing his fiddle and flying into a hoedown. He obliges with Coming For You soon which is built on one of those juddering fiddle riffs and an ominous presence and teases some of those long bluesy lines out in the background of Underground.
And while I’d love to possibly hear a second/female voice on Fallen Friend (he has a couple of close relatives who might do a job…) Make Your Mark throws a spotlight on the sound of an evolving songwriter. Mature songs, subtle and stately arrangements – as constant as he ever was.
Here’s the video for Higher We Aspire: