Monday, 2 July 2012




Having been at the heart of the UK folk/acoustic revival from the mid 1990s, the now married duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have been sorely missed these last eight years. The lack of inventive titles for the pair’s first two albums, named simply 1 and 2, never detracted from the supreme quality each offered. Naturally, one would expect any subsequent work to progress even further and Hidden People does not disappoint in the slightest. It transcends so far beyond there isn’t a scale that could support the weight of the lofty lashings of musical finesse produced here. Featuring ten exceptionally produced songs (thanks to Sean), eight of them originals, this third album demonstrates how the extent of the couple’s musical and lyrical abilities are well above even first class.

Opening with the dark yet breathtaking Norwegian folk tale Huldra was an inspired choice. The live version is goosebumpingly spellbinding to the degree it induces a trance-like state. However, and this is a rarity indeed, the largely a cappella recorded version with its perfectly placed interlacing harmonies from guest vocalists Cara DillonGreta BondessonCarolineHerring and Sadie Lobb, will sweep you to a higher dimension so fast it should be classified as a white knuckle ride. Each Huldra is incarnated by the haunting yet serene and melodious humming of the aforementioned guests as Kathryn sings about the torturous things each one does to its prey should satisfaction not be forthcoming. This combination generates an ethereal sound rendering vivid imagery so striking you’ll be checking for blood stains by the end.

Utilising a diverse blend of styles makes this more than just another folk album. While Oxford N.Y. draws heavily from the Equation days it does so with all the added skills and experience amassed, clearly evident. Hang the Rowan exhibits strong pop beats with a chorus that has a real charismatic cadence in spite of the traditional grim nature of the folk rooted lyrics. 

With many lyrically traditional folk songs, it is refreshing how the end result sounds so strikingly different to what has gone before or from what many may be expecting. This is folk that will be palatable for more mainstream music fans without alienating the diehard folkies.  

Brace yourself when the piano intro starts off The Ballad of Andy Jacobs. If you don’t at least feel the intensity of emotion begin gurgling deep down inside, by the time the heartbreaking song is through it will be an enormous lump in your throat demanding release. This is what real music is and should be about. The sheer force of power behind the moving story of childhood memories accompanied by gentle piano is musical perfection at its best. Kathryn breathes such a richly theatrical life upon often very gloomy songs infusing them with such a soul they grab you by your heart pulling on your emotive strings long after they’re finished. 

The bar is raised even higher as US folk singer Caroline Herring kicks off The White Hind, a supernatural ballad about transmigration of the soul based on a traditional French song. Further vocals from Dave Burland and JimMorray present a multilayered effect building up the song to what becomes nothing short of how a five dimensional aural experience might sound (if we mortals were able to tune into such a thing, of course).

The final guest makes his appearance about half way through Standing At My Window in the shape of The Levellers’ Mark Chadwick. The folk-rock legend provides a suitably subtle yet beautifully husky response to the main vocals against a melody that has clearly been soaked in a bath of rich alternative-country salts. The end result is delightful.

In sum, here is an album with so much depth if one explores it correctly it will be months before you get to the top again. There is so much beneath the inviting surface glittering with golden tracks both authentic and contemporary. The number of modern folk stars who lined up to contribute comes as no surprise with both Seth and Sam Lakeman lending their musicianship and Megson’s Stu Hanna singing, in addition to the many already mentioned.

Kathryn and Sean may not have been around as a musical duo for the majority of the past eight years but Hidden People bursts on to the scene with an almighty bellow of, ‘We’re back!’ and with an album anchoring them down as firmly as this there’s little doubt they are here to stay.


  1. Huldra
  2. Oxford N.Y.
  3. Money Or Jewels
  4. Hang The Rowan
  5. The Ballad of Andy Jacobs
  6. The White Hand
  7. Lusty Smith
  8. The Wisdom of Standing Still
  9. Standing At The Window
  10. Jackie’s Song

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