It’s been almost 20 years since Seth Lakeman recorded his first solo album. It was his second record - the Mercury Music Prize-nominated - ‘Kitty Jay’ that saw him really come to the public attention. Then, he was promoted as the poster boy of English folk music. Today, he is one of the artists setting the pace in terms of musical excellence in that genre.
Following on the heels of his stellar concept album ‘A Pilgrim’s Tale’, ‘Make Your Mark’ is a return to a more mixed subject matter and singer-songwriter material. These are songs written in lockdown; some angry, some contemplative, some mellow, some urgent. All bear repeated listening on an album among Lakeman’s best.
From the first strident notes of ‘Hollow’, Lakeman blasts out of the gate with that distinctive vocal. The artist has spoken of his time in lockdown, ushering in a period of intense songwriting, and he has suggested that the album harks back to the sound of his ‘Freedom Fields’ period, which happily is also enjoying a 15th-anniversary re-release.
Songs such as ‘The Giant’ and ‘The Lark’ revisit the folk tales of Dartmoor and Devon. Lead single, ‘Higher We Aspire’ is designed to put a bounce in one’s step and outlook and works on both levels.
The music is rich and varied. The lyrics always intriguing and leaving the listener with their interest piqued. Seth is given his usual sterling support from Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzouki, banjo, and mandolin, Ben Nichols on bass, and Toby Kearney on drums.
A highlight of the album for me is the stunning background vocals of Alex Hart, an artist I had not previously noticed, but whom I will be keeping an ear out for.
A fine example of her vocal is on the strident title track ‘Make Your Mark’:
It isn’t what you hope for. It isn’t what you find. It’s written in your eyes. It isn’t what you made up. It isn’t what you say. It isn’t where you come from. It isn’t what you gain. It isn’t where you end up. It isn’t where you start. It’s how you make your mark.
Seth long ago made his mark on the folk scene. Each new release seems to heighten the bar and ‘Make Your Mark’ is a fine, fine album, which sits easily alongside his best.