After a seemingly sour ending fling with the big corporate music nasties which resulted in the lacklustre and soulless Hearts and Minds (it is telling that the last time I saw Seth live there was no H&M song on the set list), Seth returns to his roots and records this fine album in the barrel house at Morwellham Quay, Devon.
With this record and the masterful Freedom Fields, Seth has established himself as a dab hand at the concept album; the lifeblood of this one being the stories of craftsmen miners and artisans of times passed. There are not many dumb notes on the record, but some tracks are stronger than others. The first two, More Than Money and Blacksmith's Prayer are probably the most effective, along with The Artisan, which bookends the album. These tracks in particular are the most powerful, with Blacksmith's Prayer very effectively evoking the atmosphere of old English working, with its strange percussion and little ghostly sounds. In fact, the lyrics here are as strong as the brilliant Solomon Brown or Fight for Favour. Although verging on twee, Apple of his Eye is another lovely track with some very tidy and quite innovative arrangements which are very welcome.
Criticisms are few and far, but I found the violin lines running through or over every song a bit intrusive at times. On some songs, like The Sender or Apple, they are subtle, but some are quite heavy, like on the otherwise strong Watchmaker's Rhyme. It would have been nice to hear the claustrophobic banjo picking of a mineshaft recorded More Than Money without the violin addition, for example. And there is the odd cliche lyric in there, but these are minor quibbles that do not take much away from a very well made and pleasing album from a back in form Seth. Nice packaging too from the guys at Proper.