Album Review | Self Release | Review by Kev Boyd | Stars: 5/5
Few people record debut albums at the age of 69 and of those that do fewer still are likely to produce a work of such charm and confidence as After All These Years. Geoff Lakeman is perhaps best known as the patriarch of a folk dynasty of sorts, being the father of immensely successful Sam, Sean and Seth Lakeman and father-in-law to the equally illustrious Kathryn Roberts and Cara Dillon. Geoff has played in the family band with his sons and their mum Joy but until his recent retirement after 50 years as a Fleet Street journalist he’d been content to stay in the background. Encouraged by his family – Sean produces and plays guitar on After All These Years while Seth plays violin and viola and Sam piano – Geoff has struck out with an album of Cornish songs, traditional favourites and a couple of self-penned originals.
Despite there being a number of acclaimed guests dotted throughout the thirteen tracks it’s Geoff’s mature yet smooth voice and distinctive duet concertina that dominate the album. These may be best demonstrated on the entirely solo “Ye Lovers All” and “Bonny Irish Maid”, both from the Irish ballad tradition and both highlighting his pleasant vocals at their relaxed, conversational best. Other traditional pieces are the lovely Cornish version of “Green Cockade” and the Aussie transportation ballad popularised by Bert Lloyd, Jim Jones. The latter includes subtle fiddle accompaniment from Seth Lakeman but perhaps the most welcome guest on the album is Nic Jones. Now a near-neighbour of Geoff’s, Nic contributes some fine chorus singing to a great version of Reg Meuross’s “England Green, England Grey”.
The general mix of songs is handled well. A couple of broadly political pieces like Roger Bryant’s “The Farmer’s Song” about several generations of family farming coming to an unhappy end, or Geoff’s own “Tie ‘Em Up’ which tells of the difficulties faced by West Country fishermen, sit easily among the more light-hearted contributions like “When The Taters Are All Dug” and Geoff’s own “Doggie Song” which laments the banning of dogs from Cornish beaches. Given his lifetime of experience and active involvement in his local folk scene and considering his significantly more celebrated offspring it may not be too much of a surprise that Geoff Lakemen has assembled a collection of great songs and persuaded a number of his accomplished friends and acquaintances to help him realise them. What is perhaps surprising to those of us who hadn’t previously appreciated his talents is the depth of quality to Geoff’s singing and playing throughout this collection. Every track oozes charm and likability in a way that’s unusual for any album, but for a debut release – whatever the circumstances – it’s extraordinary.