After All These Years
If ever there was an album waiting to be made where all the parts were already there, like an Airfix kit just needing piecing together, then this must be it. Geoff Lakeman had everything for this venture at his fingertips and most of them in his family, the only real question is why did it take so long?
He was a long-serving journalist on a national tabloid; he has been heavily involved in the folk scene for most of his life; he is a respected musician in his own right and there is the little matter of he and his wife Joy producing one of the most prominent folk dynasties.
His own family apart, Lakeman is surrounded by a Who's Who? of folk dignitaries on this collection, many of whom have gladly put their hand to the wheel to create his debut "solo" album.
AATY is wonderfully nostalgic and restful, and although brand new is incredibly old school which is a testament to the skill of his son Sean who produced the album.
He has certainly not overproduced it which allows his father to be at the heart of the tunes and not be overshadowed by modern musical interjections or his more prominent friends and family.
Lakeman has a simple and honest folk voice which comes across from the first track, The Farmer's Song. Written by Roger Bryant, this has been part of his repertoire for many years and tells of the plight of farmers being forced out of business by the constant pressure for cheap food.
Lakeman's singing and squeezebox is enough to tell the tale but it is given more character and depth with the light touch from Seth's fiddle playing and the chorus vocals from Kathryn Roberts, Jim Causley, Sam Kelly and Jamie Francis.
Tie 'em Up is the first of Lakeman's own compositions and once again it's a protest song, this time highlighting the plight of fishermen strangled by red tape. The gentle tapping bass of Ben Nicholls perfectly complements the staccato gasps of Lakeman's concertina as the tune almost mimics the rhythm of the waves hitting the fishing boats.
This gives way to a gentle but cutting ballad written by Reg Meuross which Lakeman certainly does justice to and there is the added gem of Nic Jones providing the harmonies.
Lakeman goes solo for his arrangement of the traditional Ye Lovers All where the integrity of his voice comes through with shades of Martin Carthy in his tones.
Rule and Bant is another from Lakeman's own pen. A ballad of two miners trapped underground in 19th Century Cornwall. Lakeman's style is the uncomplicated storytelling of the troubadours of old. There is close to a spiritual layer given to the song with the harmonies from Causley, Francis and Kelly.
|Geoff, Sam, Seth, Joy and Sean Lakeman|
All the cogs click into place with Lakeman's gentle singing style, son Seth's fiddle, Nicholls' harmonium and the ethereal harmonies of Cara Dillon to create a song that can reach deep into the emotions. It's when you listen to this track you realise how much the folk world could have missed by Lakeman not releasing albums much sooner in his career.
Lakeman's version of the traditional Jim Jones, a ballad of deportation, is very evocative. As he plays your mind conjures up images of hardened men in the half-light of a campfire near the shore, listening intently to the lone concertina player, tears leaking from their eyes and their hearts yearning to be back with their loved ones.
In another arrangement Lakeman connects with the sentiment in the lyrics of Galway Bay. This is a further example of his ability to strip back a song yet keep all its folk credentials and history to create a tune which seems so familiar, that even if you're hearing it for the first time you feel like you have known it all your life.
It wouldn't really be right for an album such as this not to include a song about someone's love going off to war, and Lakeman's arrangement of The Green Cockade is it. His son Sean's production of this track gives it the feel of a folk club meeting where the audience join in on the chorus, only this time he is fortunate enough to have Roberts join the line up of Causley, Kelly and Francis.
As you listen to When The Taters Are All Dug, and indeed the whole album, you realise this is a perfect example of what grassroots folk music should be. Of course there has to be room for more contemporary folk which introduces all kinds of electronica and sound effects into its makeup and even moves over into other camps, but it would be a great loss to the scene if music such as this was ever sidelined or left behind in a wave of modernism. Besides you have to love a tune which includes both a jaw harp and a banjo.
There is something almost church-like in the sound of Lakeman's concertina as it brings in Bonny Irish Maid. This arrangement of a migration ballad ticks another box on the list of what could become an instant classic. What more could you ask for, one man and his concertina and a ballad of leaving home - perfect.
|Geoff Lakeman releases |
his debut album at 69
The final track is another of Lakeman's own creations. The Doggie Song. Like many a good folk song, it is about an everyday event which catches people's interest.
It's a lighthearted seaside tune about dogs being banned from Cornish beaches. Lakeman has captured the end of the pier sound with the bouncing piece and light up and down cadence of his singing, and he even manages to throw in the odd double entendre just for good measure.
Admittedly Lakeman has the kind of experience rarely enjoyed by musicians who are bringing out a debut album but nevertheless it's that same experience which has made this album such a great collection of songs which embody what folk music is about. It can only be hoped that this will be the launchpad for Lakeman to put together more albums in the future.
After All These Years is released on February 1 and is available from the artist's website.
You can catch Lakeman on the album launch tour on February 4 at the David Hall, South Petherton, Somerset. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £14 or £13 with concessions. Then on February 11
Sat, Feb 11th- NR. MINEHEAD - Blazing Stump Folk Club, Carhampton Recreation Centre, Carhampton, Minehead, TA24 6NH. Doors open 7.30pm, show starts 8pm and tickets are £10. Then on February 16 you can see him perform at Black Swan Folk Club, Peasholme Green, York. Doors open 7.45pm and tickets are £8 in advance, £9 on the night and half price for students. On February 17 he will be playing Northwich Folk Club, Harlequin Theatre, Northwich, Cheshire - supporting Pete Morton. Show starts 8.30pm and tickets are £8 or £6 for club members. You will find him at one of Mike Harding's favourite haunts Lion's Den Inn, Settle, Yorkshire on February 18. The following night, February 19 you can see him at Bothy Folk Club, Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport. Then rounding off the month he will play Folk on the Moor, Ivybridge, Devon on February 26. Show starts 7.45pm and tickets are £10.