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Seth Lakeman's second solo album - launched in the unlikely surroundings of Dartmoor Prison - is simply stunning. Seth and his brothers Sean and Sam first took the folk world by storm whilst still students, performing as The Lakeman Brothers. Since then he has played with folk rock band Equation and with his sister-in-law, popular Irish singer, Cara Dillon.

But in 2002, Seth went out on his own, releasing The Punch Bowl to wide acclaim. This new album, Kitty Jay moves the story on into its next brilliant chapter. Seth, still only 27, dazzles on violin and viola as well as playing tenor guitar. His unusual and haunting voice has conjured up shades of Jim Moray to some people which begs the question that if Seth had launched his album ahead of Moray's Sweet England, would Jim have been compared to Seth Lakeman?! Whatever, whilst Jim sings of England, Seth sings specifically of his native Dartmoor on this album - songs inspired by the mists, legends and landscapes of one of the UK's last remaining wildernesses.

Seth, whose musical originality has drawn comparisons to a young Richard Thompson or Nic Jones, has written and arranged many of the tracks himself, mixing them with traditional West Country folk numbers. He says he wanted to produce an album "coming from folk but saying something new". He has certainly achieved that. The title track - which is typical of the dark brooding themes on the album - not surprisingly steals the show. It tells of the legend of a servant girl believed to have hung herself in a barn on discovering she was pregnant. As people committing suicide were never buried in consecrated ground, Kitty was laid to rest at a crossroads near Hounds Tor where, to this day, fresh flowers are mysteriously placed regularly on her grave along with shells, coin and crosses made from twigs.

The urgent track seeps like a peat bog full of mystery, with Seth demonstrating some frenetic fiddle playing which builds to a menacing and compelling crescendo. Backed by musicians including brother Sean (who co produced the album) on guitar, electric bass and mandolin, Kathryn Roberts on vocals and Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzouki and vocals, Kitty Jay opens with the stirring, upbeat John Lomas - an old story of a passionate servant who helps his mistress and murders for love.

The dramatic Dartmoor songs continue with other highlights being the exquisite Bold Knight and the perhaps ubiquitous song of a West Country family off to find a better life in the Americas - Fight for Favour (but this one actually has a happy ending!), the sad Ballad of Josie, raw Farewell my Love and Blood Upon Copper, inspired by the copper and tin mining history of Dartmoor and the tragic slow air Cape Clear, recorded in St Andrew's Church, Buckland Monachorum. There are some lighter moments too with the traditional West Country song The Streamers which closes out the album.

Through it all Seth's exquisite violin and viola playing is a wonderfully clear and elevating thread. This is a special and significant album and surely can only be the start of Seth Lakeman's musical journey.

Jane Brace

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.