Album: Seth Lakeman, Poor Man's Heaven (Relentless)

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There can't be many UK folk singers who can shift 100,000 copies of an album, as Seth Lakeman did with 2006's Freedom Fields – and judging by the tenor of Poor Man's Heaven, Lakeman may be only as temporarily beholden to the notoriously purist folk scene as Bob Dylan was in 1965.

For all the Celtic tang to his fiddle-playing on a track like "Blood Red Sky", the backbeat is pure rock'n'roll, with an edge of funk for good measure; and his delivery of "The Hurlers" finds Lakeman bellowing it out with the brawny conviction of a Springsteen or Bon Jovi.

But in the most important respect, he remains true to folk principles, celebrating the maritime culture of his native Cornwall through a series of electric shanties such as "Feather in the Storm" and the whaling tale "Race to be King", on which his fiddling offers a bridge between folk and bluegrass modes.

Especially impressive is "Solomon Browne", Lakeman's account of the 1981 Penlee lifeboat disaster, here commemorated in the finest traditions of the troubadour bush-telegraph.

Pick of the album:'Solomon Browne', 'Race to be King', 'The Hurlers', 'Blood Red Sky'