Mezzo Forte – Seth Lakeman.

Or – Seth “I’ve got freaking awesome guns” Lakeman.

Playing at The Brook in Southampton on the 15th April, it was finally my first experience of live Seth. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages, and I have no idea why it took me so bloody long as he always seems to be touring.

Everything about his music seems to be pretty awesome – he has is one of those rare musicians who can write brilliant songs that are immediately accessible, but also last. They can be listened to again and again, and don’t get boring. I’m not sure if any names of others who can do that actually come to mind… And he really is a musician – this word can be applied so very well to him. Being a violin player (and the violin seeming like such a frail instrument compared to, for example, the guitar), one can always feel slightly on edge when he’s playing as there is such opportunity to get a note wrong or fail completely, but not once did this happen. Indeed, the only minor ailment to his performance was his intensity in one song that started to fray his bow. Did Yehudi Menuhin even manage this? His playing technique is outstanding too – he looks classically trained in his stance and hold, although this seems slightly unorthodox for a folk singer. Throughout the set, he switched from violin to tenor guitar, and somehow managed to sing at the same time as playing the former. The logistics of this always confuse me but he did it brilliantly.

Better still, he appears to be having fun! There’s nothing worse than a moody frontman to bring the audience and backing band down. He interacted with his audience and band, frequently ‘jamming’ with individuals of the band (which includes his brother Sean), and there was a general sense of enjoyment from all there. Good choice of venue too: not too big to give it an empty feel, but cosy enough as it was full.

Starting with ‘The Hurlers’ and ending, before the encore, with just him and his violin playing ‘Kitty Jay’ (wonderful stuff!), Mr Lakeman played lots of new stuff and I am seriously considering buying the next album. A rarity, considering I am hardly ever able to buy albums 😀 It was an excellent live experience, with a combination of good playing, good songs, and a happy ensemble of people. Go see them live!

The only pity about him is that he feels to popular and too big a name for a folk artist. I always thought folk music was about using song to tell people about what was happening to the lambs and chickens, and how some bird threw herself off of a bridge because her true love has to marry someone else – traditional stuff, really, and Mr Lakeman does sing about such things, but shouldn’t folk be in the pub at the end of a long day in the fields, with a pint in one hand and a violin/guitar/hurdy-gurdy etc in the other?


‘Echo’, Matt Stevens, 2007.

The debut album from Matt Stevens, ‘Echo’, is not something to be missed. Promoted primarily through word of mouth, over the internet, and through what people are currently calling “Soc Med” (Social Media), Matt Stevens uses just his guitar and Live Looping to create multi-layered tracks for both album and performance. He has performed all over the UK, written music for films, produces a regular podcast, and performs universally (literally), by broadcasting live performances through Ustream.TV

‘Echo’ is steeped in Spanish influence, found running throughout the album, and is immediately palatable to the ear. The fact that only one instrument is used on the whole album to create so much sound is an achievement in itself, and the acoustic aspect of the music is used to its full advantage. No lyrics are used at any point in the album, and I find this can work both ways: one could say that the music does not require lyrics, and the sounds speak for itself, but then one could also say that you need lyrics to tell the story and give each piece a meaning. However, without words influencing what you first think of the music, the listener can make up their own meaning and have their own version of what the music means to them. I found to get a real in-depth experience with each track, multiple plays were required, but the music can do well to be listened to on its own, or as an accompaniment to other things, or maybe even to dance to if you’re feeling daring. In short, it’s a pretty versatile album. Matt Stevens works very cleverly with his sounds, and there are even some occasions, like on the first track ‘Burning Bandstands’ where you do think “… did those notes just clash?”, on ‘Airships’ there appear to be some sounds you have never even heard before. The whole album is beautifully played, but I feel would be at its optimum as an accompaniment to something – this is due to the nature of the acoustic, lyric-less music, but it should not detract from the skill involved in creating and playing the album.

This album is definitely a good start to what could be a long achievement of musical work, and I would be interested to see a live performance. I would indeed recommend a listen!

Playing : 9/10

Originality : 7/10

As a collective (album) : 7/10

Overall : 7.5/10

For more information, take a peek at this :