Recorded at the Plymouth Pavilions in March, Seth Lakeman’s new live EP sees some of his best-known songs given a full-on, intense orchestral treatment.
Some songs (and singers) might find themselves overwhelmed by the classical approach, but Anne Dudley’s arrangements are clever and sympathetic, the BBC Concert Orchestra are top-class, and Lakeman is in his element, his voice balanced nicely with the band.
Delicate string plucks replace the hardier banjo sound on The Blacksmith’s Prayer, from Lakeman’s most recent studio album, Tales from the Barrelhouse. It’s dramatic, packed with creepy strings and sinister woodwind motifs.
Strings are also to the fore on the polished Changes, though it’s the more playful, ascending lines that stand out here. Lady of the Sea is a confident, bold retelling of a maritime disaster, with timpani redolent of the swelling seas and Lakeman in fine voice.
The BBC’s brass section gives King & Country a delightfully pompous introduction. The track is still propelled along by choppy guitar, but romantic strings soften the song, making it sound like something from an epic film soundtrack.
Finale Kitty Jay is remarkable. Its devilishly fast fiddle line is played by what sounds like a dozen virtuosos (as opposed to the usual one). Authoritative percussion make it an exciting listen, before a flute flourish caps off an EP that will leave the listener wanting more.
Lakeman and the orchestra suit each other perfectly: it sounds like the musicians involved had a ball - and it’s very hard indeed not to get swept along with the rapturous reception each song receives.Mark Dishman
Released 3 December 2012 on Honour Oak Records
1. Blacksmith’s Prayer
2. Lady of the Sea
4. King & Country
5. Kitty Jay