This album represents the best of modern folk. It clearly has traditional influences and sensibility, but nevertheless has an edginess to it which gives it a modern feel.
The songs are inspired by the writer's home in Dartmoor and this allows for great variety ranging from old fashioned murder ballads to tales of the moors and the excitement (and the dread) of setting out to sea.
The outstanding track is the title number Kitty Jay, a sad tale of betrayal driven by a fantastic string riff.
Well worth exploring if you fancy dipping your toe in the waters of modern folk.
on 21 April 2004
The majority of tracks on this CD are penned by Seth, who is one third ofthe prodigious Lakeman brothers (see also Equation; Cara Dillon). Theother tracks included have been given Seth's own distinctive treatment,and the overall impression is of a rich and seamless tapestry. As befits acollection of songs inspired by tales from his Dartmoor home, they allhave a much more traditional feel than his previous solo album (The PunchBowl).
The compelling imagery on this tapestry ranges from sumptuousPre-Raphaelite (The Bold Knight), to stark minimalism (Cape Clear). LikeDartmoor, many of the tracks have a dark and threatening atmosphere (evenfor traditional folk music, there is an abnormally high body count -murder, suicide, battles, accidental death and lost love), but the finaltrack (The Streamers) more than compensates - it is like the sun breakingthrough clouds, and could dispel the deepest gloom. It is an anthem tocarefree innocence - I've sat on that hill, looked at that view, in thatcompany, and been guided by the angels! Thank you Seth, this CD is a gem.
on 25 May 2004
Seth Lakeman might be known to many folk music fans as an erstwhile Oysterband collaborator but make no mistake, Seth has a style and a sound all of his own. Perhaps owing more to classic Fairport Convention than to the modern folk-rock synthesists this is an impressive debut set from the young man from Plymouth. Most of the songs here are either written about or inspired by the people and landscape of Devon are, without exception, immaculately crafted and performed. From haunting instrumentals to sea shanties, Seth pulls it all off with the same expertise and enthusiasm. I shall eagerly await more from this rising star.
on 16 November 2005
Recorded for a cost of £500 in Seth Lakeman’s kitchen, Kitty Jay has a better and clearer production than albums recorded for 100 times its cost. It has propelled Seth to recognition following its nomination for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize. A good example of the Mercury bringing deserved exposure to a new act though Kitty Jay almost wasn’t entered for the competition at all as Seth had trouble stumping up the cash to produce the 50 copies which need to be submitted for entry…
Kitty Jay is a modern folk album with self-penned and traditional songs inspired by the legends of Dartmoor in Devon. Seth sings and plays violin with his brother Sean on guitar and other musicians contributing when necessary. The sparse acoustic sound has a crispness and warmth absent from most albums today but also present on The Waterboys’ excellent Universal Hall. Highlights include the brisk, catchy opener John Lomas and the title track, a stirring solo vocal and violin performance played memorably by Seth on the Mercury Prize winning night. Kitty Jay is definitely a modern, contemporary folk album rather than one full of dull, repetitive traditional verses as is evident on another highlight Blood Upon Copper, a folk-rock track reminiscent of early 70s Fairport Convention.
Kitty Jay didn’t win the Mercury Music Prize which is probably fortunate for Seth given the curse that seems to have befallen previous winners. His nomination though did give this fascinating album the exposure it deserves. More than a token folk entry Kitty Jay deserves a place in any music-lover’s collection.
Not being a new folkie, an old folkie, or much of a folkie at all it took the Mercury Prize nomination to wake me up to the talent that is Seth Lakeman.
Was lucky enough to have him play a gig in a local pub in the week he was nominated, and was amazed by both his voice and fiddle playing as he ran through most of the Kitty Jay album in a tiny but packed venue.
Naturally I rushed to get this album and happily it sounds just as good. (Why does anyone spend more than three hundred quid on recording a album when you can achieve this quality in your kitchen?)
Whenever I hear Seth being interviewed he comes over as down to earth, good humoured and in love with the music, not the attention.. which gives me another reason to admire him.
What with Seth, Teignmouth's Muse, and the Superimposers, is Devon making a case for being the new home of quality music??
Before the release of "Kitty Jay", Seth Lakeman may have been best known as an ex-member of "folk supergroup" Equation. The band, which also featured his brothers Sean and Sam, launched the solo careers of the band's three vocalists Cara Dillon, Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts. However, the split doesn't seem to have caused any bad feeling, while the ladies' high profile solo careers haven't caused any apparent jealousy. Cara and Sam left the band together and, not only are they still working together, they have even married each other. (Talk about mixing work and pleasure). In addition to her solo albums, Kathryn has recorded with Kate and Sean, while Seth appeared on Cara's first two albums. "Kitty Jay", meanwhile, is produced by Sean and features a guest appearance by Kathryn. Unfortunately, for Seth's former bandmates, it's also an album they're going to have a very tough time competing with.
All eleven songs were inspired by and written about the legends and stories of Dartmoor, where the Lakeman brothers grew up and where Seth still lives. It's very difficult to pick out any highlights, as the album is consistently excellent - but I'm going to mention the three trad tunes anyway. One of them, "Cape Clear", is a gentle, nearly mournful, number and is the album's only instrumental. The other two, "Henry Clark", and "John Lomas" - the album's opening track - are also excellent, if somewhat different in mood. (The album's closing track, "The Streamers", is based on another trad tune called "The Streams if Lovely Nancy"). Of all the songs on the album, it's possibly one of Seth's own - "Farewell My Love" - that comes closest to what the `popular' view of a trad song may be. The album's title track, meanwhile, features some great violin playing - it almost sounds like Seth may have spent a little too much time alone with a pot of coffee.
Although Kitty Jay sits firmly in the folk / trad category, it still caught me a little off-guard. (Anyone, for the record, expecting bearded old men wearing woolly jumpers drinking from tankards in smoky dark inns will also be a little confused). Given his `role' in Equation, I'd only ever seen Seth as a fiddler and had expected an album full of instrumentals, rather than just the one instrumental track. Although Kathryn guests on "The Ballad of Josie", it's Seth who provides the lead vocals throughout and - at the risk of stating the obvious - he does a great job. The violin, though, does prove to be the album's `lead' instrument. "Kitty Jay" is a superb album, and fully deserved its Mercury Award nomination - the bar is set at a very high level from the first track and the quality is maintained throughout.
on 4 September 2005
There's no doubt I wanted to listen to Seth's music when I first heard of the Lakeman brother's living nearby and wanted to know how they expressed their love of the area, but what has suprised me is the sheer quality of the work and how often I am drawn back to listen to the beautiful melodies and vocals. Its fitting to see the mercury nomination for this albumn - in a year of great singer songwriters work this good is bound to find a wider international audience. Do yourself a favour and get a copy.
I’d never heard of Seth Lakeman until I saw him on the BBC1 Breakfast show back in 2008, he was on talking about his album which was “Poor Man’s Heaven”, and they showed some of the single he’d released off the album which was called “The Hurlers”. :-)
Already have his albums “Poor Man’s Heaven” and “Hearts and Minds”.
I really liked it so I went to see if Amazon had the CD, they did so I bought that along with a couple of his others. :-)
I love the way he composes and how a lot of his songs are about the Southwest. :-)
If you were to ask me if I’d any favourites I’d have to say yes, it’s the entire CD. :-)
Personally I love this this CD and it’s a must for all Seth Lakeman fans. :-)