If the folk revival had a poster boy, Seth Lakeman would be all over the walls of hipster households and 50-somethings’ cottages across the land.
But if there’s any justice in the world they will now have to add the support act of his latest tour – Devonian trio Wildwood Kin – to the revival’s hall of fame.
I originally intended to review Lakeman’s performance.
And while an excellent performance by any standard – without airs, graces, or reputations preceding them, Wildwood Kin absolutely enthralled Cadogan Hall.
Lakeman is currently pushing his latest album, Ballads of The Broken Few, which features the all-female group — and their soaring harmonies.
The self-described indie/Americana blood harmony trio – they are two sisters, Beth and Emillie Key, plus their cousin Meghann Loney – are an essential addition to a record that could otherwise – perhaps if only by contrast – feel bare without it.
Born into folk royalty – his father Geoff Lakeman is a hero of the ‘trad’ scene – Seth’s knack for captivating audiences with virtuoso violin and gripping vocals has done a lot to bring new crowds to roots music.
Wildwood Kin might provide fresh momentum to that trend. Supporting his tour as well as playing alongside, they produce a continuity that makes a lot of sense – except for the fact that they may at times outshine Lakeman and his band.
The deceptively simple line-up – vocalists playing bazouki (think of it as a large mandolin) and a guitar, as well as standing percussion – filled the hall with harmonies which flow into each other in a definitively familial way, like The Staves.
And while the impressive percussion didn’t carry well in the large, bassy venue, it was more than made up for by the moving melodies of bouzouki and acoustic guitar.
Their debut single, Warrior Daughter, is true to its name – a pounding, angst-ridden story of female power — pretty fitting for the week of International Women’s Day.
They are clearly close friends — something that allows them to get away with self-confessedly shambolic stage chat.
When a lead singer is smiling all the time, it can pass on to the audience in a way that compensates for poor banter, a la: “We recorded this one a few months ago. We quite like it.”
With just three band members, Wildwood Kin are forced to play with dynamics — and they’ve mastered the use of silence and a capella to contrast with huge choruses.
While at times melancholic, it’s also beautiful. On and On speaks to the three losing two close friends last year, while latest single The Author skilfully bridges the folk/electric-pop divide in the most captivating way.
They are a band of contrasts — following heart-wrenching elegies with “You’ve put up with our rubbish banter so thanks for that” to surprisingly good effect. It’s disarming, but without detracting from the music.
Since they are, in their own words, “the worst sales people in the whole music industry”, they won’t sell themselves to you. So here’s my attempt:
If you’re after a new band – something deep (but without being depressing), angsty (but without being immature), folky (but without trying too hard), and modern (but without being twee) – well, Wildwood Kin are it.
Seth Lakeman has done the folk scene a great service in providing a platform for them. They are the pioneers of Riot Grrrl folk. Their collaboration with Lakeman is a new star on Folk Boulevard.
That star may soon outshine him. With their second single out in April, doyennes of the 21st century folk scene should watch out. They’ve got competition.
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