Seth Lakeman‘s latest album A Pilgrim’s Tale tells the story of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower’s maiden voyage as they set sail, four centuries ago, in search of a new life of religious freedom. Narrated by Paul McGann, the album features a host of guest performers including Cara Dillon, Benji Kirkpatrick, Ben Nicholls and Seth’s father Geoff Lakeman.
Having researched source material including the journals of the Mayflower’s William Bradford, conversations with modern day ancestors of the Wampanoag people at the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, and information from national heritage sites, Lakeman formed a narrative of the trials and tribulations of the voyage, the pilgrims’ meeting with the Wampanoag people, and their eventual successful establishment of their new life.
Having toured UK locations important to the Mayflower’s voyage including London’s Southwark Cathedral to herald the album’s release, Lakeman delved into more recent history to recall the albums that have influenced him most down the years for his This Music Made Me…
Ali Farka Touré & Ry Cooder – Talking Timbuktu
I first heard this in the teenage, 17- to 18-year-old, period for me – formative years, you could call them – and the thing about Ali Farka Touré is it’s Malian music, it’s African, it has almost hypnotic sounds, so it’s quite different to the style of music that we would have which would only be four-five minutes long, the popular single or pop song. That was the first thing that hit me really, the way you could kind of daydream and drift off and the grooves and the riffs created.
It was produced by Ry Cooder, who’s very famous. Cooder I was familiar with beforehand, he’s a west coast virtuoso musician. He played on lots of rich and fantastic songs. But the collaboration between Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré was amazing because he’s such a great slide guitarist, mandolin player and electric player. He’s just a wonderful sonic musician.
The two of them together created this masterpiece really, Talking Timbuktu, which I still listen to now. I remember playing it, with Robert Plant, grooving away to it, on the last time I was really enjoying the whole of it on a recent tour. It’s an amazing record.
Cordelia’s Dad – Spine
Now this is a bit unusual. This is a record that was produced by Steve Albini, who produced for Nirvana and big rock bands in America. He’s a great producer.
He picked this folk quartet, they’re quite an unusual east coast band, fronted by a man called Tim Eriksen. Now he’s got a really incredible voice, it’s unbelievable, and it’s very kind of heavy on the storytelling, it’s very much about storytelling, in the folk genre, with great rhythm and great production.
It’s very raw, and it gave me great ideas for early records that I was doing. That was a huge influence on me. They didn’t last that long, didn’t do that many records, but I’m still a big fan of Tim Eriksen now and I probably think that’s one of the best American anglo-folk records. It’s really powerful.
Counting Crows – August And Everything After
I guess lots of people would have heard this, from my age group.
It’s an early ’90s, classic acoustic pop production by T-Bone Burnett, and people became mesmerised, infatuated, with the lyrics and the wonderful writing of Adam Duritz who’s leading it all.
I mean that’s probably one of the best acoustic pop records I think ever made. I think it’s brilliant and it really kind of sums up a generation to me. So yeah, one of my favourite acoustic pop records.
Django Reinhardt & Stephané Grappelli – Hot Club de France
Yeah so Stephané Grappelli, he’s a man I got to see perform when I was about 11, at Exeter Great Hall. One of the greatest violinists ever, so the jazz swing violin is from the ’20s-’30s, and he was playing at 80, must’ve been well into his 80s, he shuffled on in his slippers and I watched him perform.
And ever since that moment as an 11-year-old, I was borrowing my granddad’s vinyl record of Hot Club de France, with Django Reinhardt, one of the greatest gypsy jazz guitarists.
The two of them collaborating together is some of the best recordings you can hear in jazz music, it’s something that really defines a whole movement of music, I would say.
Fairport Convention – Liege & Lief
Another huge record for the folk genre, where traditional songs were interpreted by ensemble musicians who were coming from all sorts of backgrounds, and then brought together by a man called Joe Boyd, who was the producer.
It has Sandy Denny on vocals and Richard Thompson on guitar and vocals. All these wonderful players, Dave Swarbrick playing fiddle, who’s completely unique in his style. So it was a collection of, I would say, some of the best English folk musicians there have been.
And they produced Liege & Lief, which is their most successful and biggest selling record , rightfully so. An amazing collection of folk rock songs.
Go Jane Go – Go Jane Go
I saw this trio in Australia in 2011, they are David Francey, Kieran Kane and Kieran’s son Lucas, on percussion. The three of them together make a really sparse, but exciting sound and they only made one record together and that’s it, and it’s really hard to get.
I don’t even know if you can get it online, I don’t think you can stream it anywhere. I think they literally produced a few for this, one-off tour they did in Australia. They’re all successful musicians in their own right, but they came together in this one-off album and it’s fantastic.
It’s banjo, guitar and light percussion on the edge of a snare or a cajon and it’s just fantastic songs, brilliant, David Francey is one of my favourite songwriters, he’s superb.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Jeff Buckley broke in that early ’90s era and he had a huge impact on lots and lots of people. The kind of emotion and the sort of spirit of his father Tim Buckley, Grace as a trio and as a sound, had that kind of inventiveness of Nirvana and had a real spirit that hadn’t really been captured before and I think it had an influence on so many singers.
Like I’m sure that the likes of Thom Yorke, Chris Martin and all these people listened to Jeff Buckley, and he had such a wonderful delivery. And Hallelujah is one of the greatest versions you’ll ever hear and it’s sort of come back to life I think.
He certainly brought it back to life in that generation. So yeah, another wonderful record.
Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love
Kate Bush is a huge force in music and production and someone who has been a huge influence for me throughout my musical career. I’ve always been so impressed with how much she throws into each album, how much in terms of content. She seems to almost tell a complete story and each song is a chapter.
That’s how I see a lot of her albums and I think she is one of the masters of a kind of complete story. She’s wonderful at the craftsmanship in her songs, it’s quite unique.
It’s quite obvious she’s influenced people like Tori Amos and many, many others. But yeah, pianist, singer writer, producer: she’s quite a force.
Peter Gabriel – So
I guess I got into this when I was lucky enough to work at Real World Studios, right in the height of it all, in the early ’90s as a young 17 year old, and then I was introduced to all of this world music from Real World Records.
But most importantly and most impressively, I was quite late coming to an ’80s record, which is such a brilliant collection, from Sledgehammer to Red Rain. I mean he sings doesn’t he?
And Don’t Give Up, with Kate Bush, the two collaborating together… They are probably the best voices from this country from that period. And it was produced by one of my favourite producers, Daniel Lanois, who created such a great sound for U2 and Peter Gabriel amongst others, he’s a real genius. So Peter Gabriel, what a voice, amazing songwriter.
Levellers – Levelling The Land
Levelling The Land, in the late ’90s, my formative years, when you’re 17, and sharing music with your friends. This was something new and I remember going to see Levellers for the first time and being completely blown away.
There was a violinist playing and lots of tunes at that point, and they’re so melodically driven in the band and Jon Sevink is such a fantastic melody man. Seeing this huge tower of a figure jumping around on stage had a huge impact on me and just the impact of the way they delivered the songs.
I guess that’s the punk background they’ve got, but the message for the people was truly there and it still is. I would say they’re still one of the best live bands you can see and Levelling The Land is probably the best example of their records too, it’s a classic.
Seth Lakeman’s A Pilgrim’s Tale is out now through Cooking Vinyl. Tour dates and further information can be found at sethlakeman.co.uk