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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July 2005, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Singer cooks up prize nomination
by Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

Seth Lakeman
Seth Lakeman: Kitchen enhanced album's gritty sound
Mercury prize nominees Chris Martin and folk singer Seth Lakeman were born only 30 miles apart in Devon, but occupy different parts of the music universe.

Martin's band Coldplay took 18 months to record their latest album X&Y, in eight studios in five cities including New York, Los Angeles and London.

Lakeman took three weeks to record his album Kitty Jay in the kitchen of his brother's cottage on Dartmoor for 300.

But Lakeman says that the kitchen is what gave his music distinction.

As he settles into the rocking chair in brother Sean's kitchen in Horrabridge, Lakeman is obviously content.

Sean Lakeman
Quite a few tapes were ruined by his tractor revving down the lane
Sean Lakeman
Apart from being nominated for the Mercury prize the day before, he also feels happy in his surroundings.

He said: "It's quite stressful recording an album, so to feel comfortable in your environment is very important."

Lakeman, 28, and his two musical brothers Sean, 30, and Sam, 29, had used the kitchen, dubbed The Piano Kitchen, on previous albums.

And each time producer Sean has to follow the same procedure.

"First you have to unplug the fridge, then take down the clock and of course take the phone off the hook," he said.

"Then you can set up the microphones, but you still have to watch out for the farmer next door.

"Quite a few tapes were ruined by his tractor revving down the lane."

That, and a new puppy, which had to removed from his warm bed next to the Aga, means the Piano Kitchen is a tricky place to record.

But for musicians it has special qualities.

Seth said: "It's sharp and hard sound because of the stone walls, but once you've unplugged the fridge, you can get on and do it."

Sean added: "A lot of records sound the same because they are very polished, but once this was finished we realised the gritty sound emphasises the myths and legends in the songs."

And it is the gritty sound, augmented with some other unusual sound effects, that attracted the Mercury judges.

"Seth Lakeman makes music that is urgent, thrilling and haunting," they said.

Cottage industry

The brothers even recorded local farmers chatting in The Rock pub in Yelverton for the opening of one track.

Many of the songs are inspired by farmers' stories from the pub, including the title track Kitty Jay, about a Dartmoor servant girl who committed suicide after she became pregnant.

The darkness of the album was embellished with the sound of the organ from Buckland Monachorum church, played by Audrey Mills.

"It was an awesome experience recording in the church," said Sean.

"It was just the ethereal, intense sound we were looking for.

"They even put off bell ringing practice for us."

Seth said it was "dream come true" to be nominated alongside Chris Martin, from Exeter.

"It proves that all music is equal," he said.

Kitty Jay, which has sold a respectable 5,000 so far, is expected to sell 30,000 on the back of the nomination.

Orders have already been pouring in, turning distribution into a cottage industry, with boxes of CDs taking the place of violins and guitars on the kitchen table.


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