Sunday, 25 January 2015

KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN

CD Review

Tomorrow Will Follow Today

This new album from Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman is a fascinating collection and what's more it has, refreshingly and reassuringly, political strands in it. 

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman
TWFT is more than just a collection of songs it's an eclectic compendium of stories which give Roberts & Lakeman another chance to show their versatility and the depth of their musical talent which comes from a folk pedigree most artists can only dream of.
Roberts opens the album with the gutsy Child Owlet, the single from the album, an everyday story of incest, treachery and murder, the bedrocks of many a good folk song.
Lakeman, who also produced the album, introduces an electric element into the fast-paced tune carrying the tale along which has a rock undertone to this traditional folk story.
If you check out the video below you will not only get to hear the song but see a slightly sinister film, the most disturbing part of which is it has been put together by three seven year olds, two of which are the couple's own children Poppy and Lily, and they say children's play is innocent. Roberts' voice is as strong, clear and melodic as ever and, at times on this track, sounds a lot like the wonderful Annie Lennox.
This gives way to the first of the self-penned tracks, 52 Hertz, a much slower ballad which sounds like something Kate Bush would have done in her hey day. The song is a wonderfully original and melancholy story of a whale, given the moniker of 52 Hertz, because it sings on a different frequency to its fellow mammals and so is destined to wander the seas in search of a mate that can actually hear its song.
A Song to Live By is a beautiful track with Roberts on piano playing as a mother offering advice to their two young daughters. It very much has shades of Eva Cassidy with that depth of emotion and gentleness which just pulls at your heart. Following on from this is the title track which brings Lakeman back into the musical fray on guitar. It's refreshing that this is a political song aimed at our out-of-touch political leaders.
Even though Roberts' smooth voice is very calm, both the tune and the words have a hard political edge which is obvious in a lot of contemporary folk by its absence. The thumping rhythm from the back with a single drum beat which is echoed by Lakeman's definite strings is then given the strong emotion of Roberts singing. La Moneca (Queen of the Island of Dolls) sees Roberts follow former singing partner Kate Rusby and Lancashire trio Harp and a Monkey in starting a track with the voice of one of their children.
Once again the duo bring a fascinating and slightly macabre story of an island South of Mexico City. What makes it stand out is a hermit has populated the island with all manner of children's dolls. Once again Roberts has juxtaposed her gentle and matter of fact singing with what is a slightly disturbing spectacle.
The dolls are there as a memorial to a drowned child but of course as the toys slip into decay they have become increasingly sinister all of which seems to be playfully hidden by Roberts' lighter tone. Another political song, Down, Dog! about idealism being stifled by corruption sounds very much like The Pretenders with Roberts unwittingly doing a very good impersonation of Chrissie Hynde.
This edgy song is carried along by Lakeman's definite and expert guitar playing. If there is one thing which comes out of this album it's that Roberts is a vocal chameleon. Her rich tones and mesmerising singing seems to take on so many guises she could almost make a living as a musical impressionist.
Point in case being Rusalka, where it could easily be the heavenly voiced Katie Melua singing which gives you some idea of the standard Roberts can obtain with her voice and with such ease that it's scary. In this tale of a Russian mermaid, Roberts, over the top of Lakeman's understated but effective playing, produces a wonderfully haunting and slightly eerie, bordering on the sinister, sound that were she a siren no ship or crew would stand a chance.
The new album from
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
This is Roberts at her most tuneful and with hubby's delicate and uncomplicated strumming on the guitar you realise just how little the couple need, beside their obvious talent, to produce what is an absolutely gorgeous song.
The Banishing Book is a much jauntier offering and among the most traditional sounding of the album. It's based on a tune from Songs of Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy and flies by at some pace.
Their arrangement of the penultimate track, The Robber Bridegroom, comes in very slickly sounding a little like Jethro Tull with Roberts' voice stabbing the lyrics into the air as Lakeman builds the song with his strumming to the point where it almost becomes a battle between voice and instrument. With the final track, Soft the Morning Sun, Roberts takes the album out with a gentle ballad/love song which is opened nicely by Lakeman's guitar before his wife's voice comes over the top like the page of a book turning. Roberts voice is a delight to listen to, Lakeman's production and playing is as good as it gets, what's not to like?
We are only in the first month of 2015 and if this album has set the bar for new releases then the folk community is in for a cracking year of music.

Tomorrow Will Follow Today is released on the Iscream Music Records on February 23 and will be available from the duo's website, on digital download and through Proper Music.

Fans should note that the February gig at The Old Ship, Lowdham, Nottinghamshire is sold out although it may be worth contacting the venue for any possible returns.
However, you can catch them on February 22 at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham at 8pm, doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £10 but may incur a fee if booked online.
Other gigs they are playing around the Midlands include March 29 at Chipping Norton Theatre Oxfordshire again at 8pm although there is no link or indication of the concert on the venue's website. The duo then move on to the Ballroom at The Fishpond, Matlock Bath on April 3. Tickets are £12.50 and the show starts 8pm.
Then on April 20 you can catch them at the Artrix, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with the show starting 8pm.
Two days later on April 22 they play the Courtyard Theatre, Hereford. The show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £15 or £14 with concessions. Then on April 25 they will be playing The Civic – Stourport on Severn, Worcestershire. Tickets are £12.50 in advance and £15 on the night. Doors open 7pm and the show starts 8pm. Supporting the duo will be Hattie Briggs.
The following month on May 17 you can catch them at Fleecey Folk, Evesham Worcestershire. Tickets are £12 and the show starts 8pm.