Folk performer Seth Lakeman released his second album, “Kitty Jay” on the iscream label, today in 2004. Taking its subject matter as the myths and legends associated with his native Dartmoor, he chose to launch it in its most famous – and feared – building, the prison.
Mostly recorded in the kitchen of his brother’s Dartmoor cottage at a cost of just £300, “Kitty Jay” was intended to be a mix of original material and traditional West Country music, in Seth’s own words, “coming from folk but saying something new”.
Tales of sex and death abound, not least the title track which tells the sad story of a young girl who fell pregnant and took her own life. “John Lomas” meanwhile recounts the legend of a servant who murdered for love, leaving his master in “a blood soaken bed”.
Co-produced with his brother Sean (guitar, electric bass and mandolin), Seth’s vocals, fiddle, viola and tenor guitar are to the fore, Kathryn Roberts and Benji Kirkpatrick providing vocal backing and the latter appearing on bouzouki. Drums from Iain Goodall and Ben Nicholls on Double bass complete the ensemble.
Asked about the inspiration for the record, Seth commented that “All the old boys in the pubs would mention these stories and it’s a great theme to write about.” Rather than an alehouse though, he opted to record the only wholly instrumental track – “Cape Clear” – on location in St Andrew’s Church, Buckland Monachorum. That allowed him to incorporate the church’s organ – played by Audrey Mills.
Seth launched the album in front of 100 inmates at the chapel within Dartmoor gaol and was joined onstage by a prisoner with whom he’d collaborated with on the song “Dartmoor Blues”. Describing the experience as both “frightening” and “amazing”, Seth would later return to the prison to play a further gig there.
“Kitty Jay” would land Seth a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2005 and although he didn’t win the award (which went to Antony and The Johnsons), the press response and his industrious live schedule ensured his recognition – and appearance on the Radio 2 playlists. Seth did admit however that the steep ticket price for the awards ceremony had left him “skint”.
Check out and purchase Seth Lakeman CDs from our e-shop, Propermusic.com by clicking on the logo below:
And here’s some footage of Seth in action: