RECORDED this summer in a studio set-up in a Cornish church, Word Of Mouth is a defining album for Seth Lakeman’s storied career and for the landscape of British folk.
The album, released as a CD, LP and a limited special edition 2CD + DVD Bookpack is the natural successor to 2011’s Tales From The Barrel House. It keeps the stripped-back storytelling but embellishes it with a denser, fuller version of Seth’s hauntingly melodic style.
Seth has bared his traditional folk roots more than ever before with Word Of Mouth. The sound is deeper and more dramatic than previous albums, in part owing to Seth’s recruitment of his live band. As well as Ben Nicholls, Cormac Byrne, Lisbee Stainton and Sean Lakeman, guests on the album include Leon Hunt playing banjo on Last Rider, Ben Howard’s cellist India Bourne on The Wanderer and Lau accordion player Martin Green on Tiger. Ian Grimble, a veteran of Abbey Road studios whose CV includes Manic Street Preachers, Beth Orton and Cat Stevens, produced and mixed the album.
Recorded in North Tamerton Church in East Cornwall and featuring the stories of the real people who inspired the album, Word Of Mouth straddles the folk tradition Seth’s music is steeped in and the contemporary folk movement that he has become such a seminal figure of.
Kitty Jay, Seth’s Mercury award-nominated second album, was recorded in his kitchen for £300. His last offering, Tales From The Barrel House, was recorded partly in a copper mine. With those behind him, a church seems a natural choice for this album.
As Seth explained, it’s about capturing the sound of the room, a much-forgotten part of the recording process: “I enjoyed the honesty and edginess of that, the instruments, certainly wooden instruments, breathe a bit more.
“It is the complete opposite to building a record in the studio. Sometimes just singing some of the lyrics, looking up at the stained-glass window – it was a powerful, emotional feeling, I think it adds to the passion. You can hear the birds, something could be tuned here or there but there’s no autotune, reverb or effects added – just the church.”
The second CD in the limited edition Bookpack contains interviews with the real life protagonists of the album’s stories. These include a long-serving Bodmin railway worker (The Last Rider), a dock-working veteran of 40 years (Another Long Night) and a travelling couple who have put down roots but still long for their old life on the road (The Wanderer).
Seth hopes these interviews open up the artistic process. “It’s really just a fascination with people – being socially aware of the community where you’re from.”
Word Of Mouth will be released on Monday on Cooking Vinyl Records. He will be playing songs from it as well as those from his back catalogue at Truro Cathedral on Saturday, February 8. See www.sethlakeman.co.uk for tickets.
Earlier in the day he will be performing live and signing copies of the new album at Music Nostalgia, Truro Pannier Market, at 2pm.