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Geoff Lakeman

Venue: Bothy Folk Song Club
Town: Southport
Date: 19/02/17

The name Lakeman is, of course, familiar to us through the exploits of the three brothers Sean, Seth and Sam. Now a fourth name can be added to that illustrious list – their father Geoff.

Geoff, a Cornishman now living on Dartmoor, is a fine singer, songwriter and renowned exponent of the rare Crane Duet Concertina but only started performing solo gigs after retiring from his fifty-year career as a Fleet Street journalist.

Earlier this month Geoff released his first album, the aptly titled "After All These Years", which was reviewed in these pages by Rory Stanbridge.

In support of the album's release, Geoff has embarked on a solo tour and tonight we were pleased to welcome him to the Bothy.

Geoff explained how his sons had persuaded him to make the album "for the grandkids" and how it was six years in the making. The album was produced and recorded by Sean and features all three sons, together with daughters-in-law Kathryn Roberts and Cara Dillon.

Geoff's repertoire generally falls into two categories, songs about Cornwall and Americana.

So perhaps we should refer to his music as Cornicana?

Geoff' first set tonight largely consisted of the Cornish songs, beginning with Roger Bryant's "The Farmer's Song"about the plight of dairy farmers who "can't make it pay".

Cornish miners were the subject of Geoff's next pair of songs, the traditional "The Rambling Miner" and his own excellent composition "Rule and Bant" about two miners who were trapped underground for five days in 1889. Next up was Geoff's equally impressive song, a "protest shanty" about the devastating effects of fishing quotas, "Tie ‘Em Up", in which the fishermen are told by bureaucrats "You can only go fishing once a year!".

Completing the cycle of Cornish songs was "The Green Cockade", a Cornish version of the more familiar recruiting song, "The White Cockade".

During his time as a journalist, Geoff spent time in Northern Ireland and he loves Irish music, hence his charming version of "The Bonny Irish Maid", about a young man who is about to leave his lover to go to America.

Geoff clearly admires the songwriting skills of fellow West Countryman Reg Meuross as he performed two of his songs tonight. "England Green and England Grey" is a bitter-sweet song which lists what is wrong with England but ends up concluding that "there's none so sweet as England". On Geoff's album this song features harmony vocals from his near neighbour, the great Nic Jones.

Geoff's second song by Reg was the haunting "The Band Played Sweet Marie", which tells the tragic tale of Wallace Hartley, the violinist on the Titanic. We were privileged to hear Geoff's version as the only previous performance of it had been to his Spaniel dog!

Of Geoff's Americana repertoire, we were treated to excellent versions of songs by Randy Newman [the incredibly prescient "Political Science", and "Louisiana 1927"]; Jimmie Rogers ["Any Old Time"]and Hank Williams ["You Win Again"]. Geoff's rendition of Richard Thompson's "Waltzing's For Dreamers" was lovely, as was "I Only Have Eyes For You", his mother's favourite song.

Geoff's engaging performance was nicely rounded off on an amusing note with his satirical composition, written in the style of Tom Lehrer, "The Doggie Song", which laments the banning of dogs from Cornish beaches ["you can't bring your doggie down here"].

I think that fellow Bothy-goers will join me in thanking Geoff's sons for encouraging him to make the album and to perform it live. Otherwise we would have missed a treat.

Peter Cowley

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