What with the seemingly unstoppable rise of Frank Turner, the endless longevity of the career of the Dropkick Murphys and the success stories of the likes of Laura Marling, it would seem we are in the midst of a folk music revival in 2010.
Seth Lakeman's new album Hearts and Minds is further testament to this fact. Released on a major label and promoted with mainstream television performances (such as This Morning) shows there must be something to it. Is the hype around this fiddle wielding musician really justified?
Let's start on the right foot: what is here is good. The album's opening and title track, Hearts and Minds, bristles with a self confidence and swagger which is a joy to listen to. It is up-tempo and uplifting. It is something of a call to arms and sets the album off to a great start. I must say, and this might sound weird, but the violin work sounds to me like somebody transposed Joe Perry from Aerosmith's guitar work over to the violin and played it on that. It shouldn't work, but it does. It also shows that Lakeman has great skill on his instrument; coaxing out memorable hooks and solos with relative ease.
There also slower and more delicate songs. Stepping Over You showcases a plodding banjo riff and more heartfelt lyrics. It recalls Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam's solo work on the Into the Wild soundtrack. This album oozes pop sensibility and has the potential to be huge. The vocals are strong and sweet.
The one problem with Hearts and Minds is that, although it obviously works, there is not a lot of room for development within the formula. The aforementioned title track and recent free download Hard Working Man sound almost identical. They veer far too close to becoming just one song and although you are humming a Seth Lakeman riff, sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which song it's from.
So perhaps the hype is not justified. Perhaps Seth Lakeman was just in the right place at the right time. It is undeniable that Hearts and Minds is an enjoyable album, but more than anything, it is just background music. Nothing particularly stands out and there is little variety. There is much better folk music currently doing the rounds out there.