Amongst the various anniversaries that will be celebrated in 2020 is the sailing of the Mayflower on its trip across the Atlantic 400 years ago. Having played around the area of Plymouth harbour on many an occasion and being well known for his love of the folk tradition, Seth Lakeman was always suitably positioned if you were to cast around for someone to tell this tale in music. However, his role in this musical work was clinched from the moment he paid a visit to the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts whilst he was on tour with Robert Plant. Home to the Wampanoag tribe who famously greeted the arriving Europeans, it proved an inspiration for the suite of songs that you'll find on this record.
On board for the journey is actor Paul McGann who narrates the tale of the migrating pilgrims and their encounter with the native people of The Americas. In between each of the songs, the tale progresses from its initial explanation of the pilgrims' religiously driven migration with its optimism for the future through to the difficult times when they reached their destination. The songs are written from different perspectives whether that of the Wampanoag people or the pilgrims themselves. In this way, it adds a rich complexity to this voyage of discovery and reveals it as a triumph of difficulty over hope.
Recorded at his Crossways Studio, Seth Lakeman surrounded himself with a stellar cast of musicians. Lakeman's sister in law, Cara Dillon, and his father, Geoff, lend their vocals to the record. Benji Kirkpatrick joins Lakeman on various instruments and Ben Nicholls adds the upright bass to the folk mix. Musically, the songs are often worked around the Lakeman fiddle with drums and bass beating out the rhythm that drives along tracks like 'Sailing Time'. Though, elsewhere, like on 'Bury Nights', the sound is stripped back and the vocals allowed to come more to the fore. Most of them are written by Lakeman himself with the occasional traditional song, such as 'Pilgrim Brother', added for good measure. All in all, the narration and related songs have been well researched to not only provide education about the historic voyage but also entertainment in equal measure. A classy project.
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