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Delving deep; ALAN NICHOL takes a look at what is happening on the roots music scene in the region, including a chat with Seth Lakeman.

Byline: ALAN NICHOL

SETH Lakeman had to dig deep for his last album, Tales From The Barrel House, on which he played all of the instruments, wrote all of the songs, mixed the sound and produced the record.

So deep, in fact, that he recorded the opening track, More Than Money, down the George & Charlotte copper mine in Morwellham in his home county of Devon.

Now that is way beyond the line of duty. Seth - who was nominated for the Mercury music prize back in 2005 - and his band arrive at The Sage's Hall 1 next Thursday night.

His success has been hard-won after years of touring and he quickly moved from the breakthrough of his second album, Kitty Jay (which cost PS300 to make in his brother Sean's kitchen), to the six-figure sales of his subsequent releases.

The grand surroundings of the Gateshead venue are in stark contrast to the mine, of course, but also to the old Victorian barrelhouse in which the rest of the album was recorded.

The album's artwork beautifully depicts a bygone era and the theme - of crafts and craftsmen - is clearly evident in the songs.

I spoke to Seth recently and started by asking him why he felt the need for the solo approach. "It's a way of combining sound and subject, a way of trying to make the instruments and the way I write and sing - all of these elements - combine and fit.

"All of these ingredients - professions past and present - trying to get them together. I tried with other musicians and it just didn't sound right.

"Then, me and the sound-engineer tried the barrelhouse and we were blown away by the sound. The barrelhouse is the star of that record."

From this cobwebbed, disused industrial workshop, Lakeman dispenses once and for all with any vestige of record company intentions to fashion a folky "poster-boy".

Using his own newly created label, Seth wanted, initially at least, to make a record for fans, as he explains: "It was a light relief, just for people on tour. I see it as a Tom Waits kind of sub-record, with no singles etc. It's a tough listen.

"Just by the way it was recorded. The atmosphere, one microphone to capture those elements. Spiritually, it brings the music to life. People got the concept and I wasn't really sure that they would get it."

Well, the limited release idea was soon despatched when it immediately sold-out and had to have a formal, publicised release to the world at large.

He didn't stop there, though. He subsequently recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra - "a completely new experience" - and the results will be on a new live EP which will be available for the Sage gig and the rest of the autumn tour.

Seth has his brother, Sean, on guitars; Cormac Byrne on percussion; Ben Nicholls on upright bass and a relatively new addition to the band, vocalist Lisbee Stainton.

Whilst the blokes are all Seth regulars, Lisbee is new to the set-up although has three solo albums to her name already. Seth, of course, has ample experience of working alongside female singers, as his former bandmates (in Equation) included Kathryn Roberts, Cara Dillon and Kate Rusby.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 12, 2012
Words:543
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