Seth Lakeman – Make Your Mark
Hollow is a powerful opener. Seth Lakeman narrates an unnamed tragedy, but the audience is most definitely ‘you,’ the witness. The cadence is instantly familiar (reminiscent of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and Tom Petty’s You Don’t Know How it Feels), employing a strident mandolin part and rhyming couplets to deliver the drama.
There’s strength in unspecificity. It means we could be talking about an earthquake, Amazon workers trapped during a tornado, climate change, or political calamities. Lakeman seems to recognise that we might take a ‘thoughts and prayers’ approach to the messages from the howling wind. Therefore, we are urged to recognise our individual and collective strength and be prepared to act.
“Thrashing in the waves and despair/blood on the rocks”
The Giant is considerably more up-tempo but the tense mood doesn’t match the jaunty reel. The Celtic aural aesthetic could mean that Lakeman was genuinely exploring giant mythology. However, it soon becomes clear that he’s talking about a beached whale. Again, inactive onlookers are ineffective and obstructive. That’s because strength, action, and bravery are needed to save the day.
Next, we’re transfixed by a sustained, discordant note. Foot-stomping instrumentation begins at the minute mark of Love Will Still Remain. So does the persistent note, even while softened by harmonies from Alex Hart.
Bound To Someone is tender vignette, and Hart’s contribution is simply beautiful. We hear about the power of love to guide and persist across oceans.
“It isn’t where you end up/it isn’t where you start/it’s how you make your mark”
The title track Make Your Mark repeats the blend of mandolin and decisive rhyming refrains to deliver a strong message. It’s becoming clear that the guiding principle of the album is that making your mark is the only thing that matters in the end.
Coming For You Soon sparks thought and debate – who is coming for who soon, and why? The lyrics are delivered as rapidly as the frantic fiddle, adding to the tension. As the song develops, we get the impression that ‘they’ have already come for others and you’re next.
Higher We Aspire strikes as the obvious radio single, with keen positivity and shades of a folk Springsteen.
“One hot, golden, summer’s day”
The Lark follows a couple in love and the environment through which they roam together. The song acts like a palate cleanser after so much tension, drama, and heavy global themes.
Side By Side champions collective action musically as well as lyrically, since the strength of the instrumentation increases with layers of support and volume.
Fallen Friend drops in on various groups of friends and strangers remembering the heroic deceased subject of the song. Lakeman explores what’s they’ve lost and what will endure.
Shoals To Turn is moodily ominous. As Lakeman solemnly documents a scene of concerned silence while the protagonists are completely dependent on the vagaries of nature, we even hear the tense squeak of chord changes.
Underground explores the vulnerability of working people dismissed at will despite decades of loyalty. The tone is sombre but the protagonists survive. Whatsmore, “the far-off cry from the underground” persists when the silence is deafening.
The most joyfully optimistic song of the album, a riotous jig called Change, finds Lakeman imploring “change is coming soon, my friends/changes through the land/change is round the corner in the eyes of every man.”
“I will be with the morning when you rise”
Constantly pairs close observation of the environment with the persistence of memory in an extended lament. The sustained note that opens Love Will Still Remain is mirrored by a similarly held note to close the record down. That’s fitting as the songs essentially explore the same premise.
All in all, Make Your Mark is a dramatic and tense but, ultimately, hopeful album. It’s driven by certainty in our capacity to take action for the greater good if we’re guided by love.
Make Your Mark, produced by Seth Lakeman and released on his record label Honour Oak, is out now on CD, digital, and double vinyl.
Don’t miss our in-depth review of Seth Lakeman’s concept album about The Mayflower landing, A Pilgrim’s Tale.