Seth Lakeman, Freedom Fields

Phil Meadley hears the former Mercury Music nominee give voice to the myths and legends of Dartmoor's distant past

Before his Mercury Music Award nomination last year, Seth Lakeman was just another promising young folk talent destined for the folk clubs and arts centres of Great Britain. Then his album Kitty Jay fired up the imaginations of the Mercury judges, who described his music as 'urgent, thrilling and haunting'. Not bad for an album that was recorded for £300 in his brother Sean's kitchen. In between unplugging the fridge and avoiding playtime at the local school, they made an album of genuine passion, fed by the myths and legends of Dartmoor's treacherous past. It catapulted Lakeman into the forefront of the new British folk movement.

Freedom Fields was recorded during the Mercury furore, but shows very little change in his gameplan, concentrating as it does on 17th-century civil war skirmishes and Cornish mining tales. The subject matter is nothing new, of course. But the uniqueness of Lakeman lies in his delivery. His voice is half rock, half folk, without the obligatory warbling larynx. As such, he's the natural link between the likes of Eliza Carthy and brooding Scottish tunesmith Alasdair Roberts.

Even when he sings of his 'fine and pretty' love on 'The Charmer', it sounds just as rooted in contemporary angst as buried in local tradition. Live standard 'The White Hare' is a banjo-driven ballad with Radio 2 stamped all over it. 'The Colliers' is an obvious single, its infectious chorus telling of the 19th-century oppression of tin and copper miners.

The only criticism is that many of the songs veer towards midtempo ballad territory. Anyone who has seen Lakeman live will attest that he's capable of opening up the throttle on his trusty fiddle when the mood takes him. And while there are plenty of well-crafted songs which stand up to repeated listens, Freedom Fields could do with that kind of intensity.

Download: 'The Colliers'

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