The actual 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s setting sail from Plymouth for America isn’t until September, but Devon-born Seth Lakeman is in early with an album chronicling the ship’s troubled voyage. Its genesis lies with Lakeman’s visit to the ship’s hallowed landing spot, Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, where he met descendants of the Wampanoag people who confronted the Mayflower’s exhausted Puritan émigrés.
The dozen songs here – three of them, including a sea shanty, drawn from tradition – feature typically robust performances from Lakeman on fiddle and vocals, ably supported by multi-instrumentalist Benji Kirkpatrick. There’s passion aplenty but little light and shade beyond the opening Watch Out, an indigenous American woman’s intuition that things will end badly for the locals, where Cara Dillon adds backing vocals. She also helps out on the other reflective piece, Saints and Sinners.
The Mayflower’s story is compelling, featuring hardship, hunger and the righteous pilgrims plundering grain from the Wampanoags, and is helped along by artful narratives spoken by the actor Paul McGann. These, however, leave you hungry for a full podcast rather than more music. Lakeman, a fine performer, will doubtless animate it all on stage, perhaps ready for transatlantic export.