Seth Lakeman – A Pilgrim’s Tale

Album Review | BMG | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It seems only fair that Devon’s Seth Lakeman should tell the story of the Mayflower’s epic journey to the New World on the 400th anniversary of its historic voyage, not only because Plymouth’s cobbled streets are but a stone’s throw away from Seth’s neck of the woods and that he spent much of his childhood on the quay, or the fact that he has since sung, fiddled and performed on some of the tall ships in the harbour and in most of the old fishermen’s pubs in the area, but because this story is very much in his blood.  For A Pilgrim’s Tale, which consists of a dozen songs, mainly from Lakeman’s own pen, but also one or two traditional songs such as “Pilgrim Brother”, “Sailing Time” and “The Digging Song”, together with “Westward Bound” based on John Masefield’s Laugh and be Merry, Lakeman has sought the assistance of such notable collaborators as Cara Dillon, Benji Kirkpatrick and Ben Nicholls, together with his own father Geoff Lakeman who also lends his voice to the project.  Crucially, the whole project is held together by Paul McGann’s remarkable narration, which adds an almost solemn drama to the tale.

The story is told so convincingly, that the fact and the fictional blend seamlessly together, detailing both the apprehension and excitement of the voyagers as well as the fears and uncertainty of the Wampanoag people whose lives were to change forever overnight.  Four centuries have passed since the Mayflower first dropped anchor at Cape Cod, but its legacy has lingered long, set within several key locations in both America and the UK, some of which Seth Lakeman will visit as part of his forthcoming tour to launch this album, beginning at Doncaster’s CAST Theatre, a few miles north of Scrooby, home of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower.  Some of these locations are vividly captured in the songs as well as the vast ocean that lies at the heart of the voyage.  After visiting the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, where the singer got to speak to the Wampanoag residents, Seth Lakeman returned with a clear idea of the ‘vibe’ he wanted these songs to project.  A Pilgrim’s Tale reflects that vision and makes for compelling listening, something to absorb yourself in.

Choice Track: Pilgrim Brother (NSV 494)