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"Poor Kitty Jay, such a beauty thrown away ..."
on 2 July 2008
This is a grudging four-star review (rounded up from three-and-a-half). I had come across Lakeman before in his local band Equation. I heard he had come up with a solo album based on local legends and my curiosity was aroused. This review addresses superficially the songs individually before looking at the album as a whole.
"John Lomax" is surprisingly good; making the chorus softer and quieter than the verses is very effective. "The Bold Knight" displays Lakeman's skilful handling of the violin. "Fight for Favour" is too sparse, whilst the title track displays marvellous energy in its violin cross-rhythms. The opening to "Farewell My Love" is a cringing parody of folk music. There is good drumwork in "Blood Upon Copper", but the song ends too soon. "Henry Clark" sounds like a preliminary to something bigger. "The Storm" is a missed opportunity too: where IS the sound of the storm? "Cape Clear", the longest track at 4'20'', combines an ominously sustained church organ with some fine violin-playing including some double-stopping. "The Ballad of Josie" is distinctive through its female backing vocals. The final song, "The Streamers", ends the album unmemorably.
With his poor enunciation, Lakeman's singing is just about bearable. The album is almost completely acoustic throughout its 37 minutes and eleven tracks. This was, presumably, the intention, but it has left the sound poor and sparse, giving it the feel of a demo-tape. It is an album of incredibly missed opportunities. For example, the ending of the opening track just suddenly fades out, whereas it calls for a build-up to a denouement.
But the more I played the CD, the more it grew upon me. Lakeman has good latent songwriting skills, although his lyrics border on the naïve in places. The songs need to be developed. They cry out for a more complex, deeper production, a more polished style. And so, for me, the album lives up to the poor life of Kitty Jay, "such a beauty thrown away".