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Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman - Personae.jpg
  • Release Date: 9th March, 2018
  • Genre: Folk
  • Record Label: I Scream Records
  • Tracks: 10
  • Website: 
  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)

The wonderful 'Personae' is the landmark fifth studio album from Dartmoor based 2013 & 2016 BBC Radio 2 folk award 'best duo' winners, Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman. 

Personae - "The aspect of a character that is presented to or perceived by others"

The album is a fantastic emotional journey fusing ten tracks of traditional ballads with their own self-penned songs. It's thought-provoking, captivating, moving and magical in equal measure. A very high quality collection of songs from one of the UK's best and enduring folk partnerships.

With over two decades of songwriting and performance Kathryn and Sean are always highly innovative, often seamlessly mixing traditional song arrangements with their own excellent compositions. Moods and themes on the album range from the bitter to the sweet, the wry and perfectly observed to the sad, sometimes with political themes and undertones. Spanning across folk, rock, country and blues. Sean is a very talented producer and an excellent acoustic and electric guitarist. His skills perfectly complemented by the pure vocals, wonderful piano and woodwind of Kathryn.

Sean's brother Seth lends subtle fiddle along with the guest vocals of rising star Sam Kelly, who features on the album's dramatic traditional opening track 'The Knight's Ghost' (Child Ballard 265). This dark tale of death and spectral encounters comes complete with an new tune and sparkling arrangement. The self penned classy and reflective 'Independence' is beautifully written and arranged. It's a very touching song about a child’s growing up and the gentle tentative steps of leaving her mother. It would be perfect for a TV or movie soundtrack. The legend of the founding of the city of Antwerp in Belgium is explored in the uptempo 'Tribute Of Hands'. Antwerp also translates as 'hand throw'. This wonderful segways into a cover written by Sandy Denny called 'Solo' (which is strangely missing from the Spotify version). 

You can't help thinking Kate Bush for their next track the fun and playful 'The Poison Club'. Sean's rich and beautiful acoustic guitar playing on 'Seasons' is almost harpsichord-like complemented by Kathryn's vocals. The song has a real classic and ethereal medieval feel. In 1772 the Breton part of St. Malo ceased using a pack of English Mastiffs to police the nightly curfews after the death of a navel officer. This is explored in the wonderfully titled 'The Street Of The Cats Who Dance'. Next up is the traditional 'Boney's Defeat' set in St. Helena. It is very fitting then that we stay on the island for 'Old, Old, Old' a wonderful tribute to Jonathon the giant tortoise who lives on the island. Born is 1832 Jonathon is thought to be the oldest living land animal. The song has a light country sound with a lovely guitar solo complemented by brother Seth's fiddle playing.

'Goddess Made Flesh' is a lament for a lost artist who died far too young. It's interesting that Sandy is covered earlier in the album and I wonderful if she is the central character.

A super, very interesting and very high crafted album from one of the UK's best folk duo's. One which I'm sure will bring Kathryn and Sean the success that they richly deserve. Don't be too surprised to see this album nominated for UK Folk Awards in 2018/19.

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