The man credited with making folk cool has reached new depths. Literally.

For his sixth album, West Country singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman swapped the recording studio for the dank surroundings of a disused copper mine, 500 metres underground.

The dripping echoing chamber of the George and Charlotte mine, on the Devon-Cornwall border was an appropriate setting for a song about mining. The rest of the album, Tales from the Barrel House, is equally place-specific – being recorded in a, well, barrel house – a 150-year-old cooperage.

“I wanted to take the songs back to their source,” he explains. “It’s a collection of stories which I recorded in places I felt confident would give me the right sounds – so the song recorded in the mine was all about miners and the conditions they worked in. It was spooky and there is the sound of dripping water. And it was very dark.

“It was quite an interesting way to record an album,” he goes on. “It gives it a more natural feel.”

A stripped-down affair, recorded at Morwellham Quay, a World Heritage Site beside the River Tamar, the record is reminiscent of his classic Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay – the stripped-down DIY album, made for just £300, which first brought this young and extraordinarily dynamic Dartmoor performer to the public’s attention, and helped rid folk of its chunky jumper and tankard-waving image. And it is full of the same rich tales of bygone West Country life.

It is also a true solo effort. Not only did fiddle, guitar, viola and banjo virtuoso Seth write the album, but he also plays every instrument, produced and mixed it.

“People have asked me whether it was a budget thing or because I just like control,” he laughs. “But it’s really because I wasn’t 100 per cent sure how it was going to turn out.

“There are such strong themes behind the stories and I was able to draw more out of them in terms of sounds,” he says.

“It’s the percussion which is really leftfield. There is percussion relevant to each song – with a pickaxe on a snare drum, chains on rafters and an old tool sharpener, which really resonates.

“I didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out well. I really like it – though it was a challenge.

“It’s not something you’d put on at a dinner party but is a very free and natural album which feels right.”

The album was initially released as a limited edition in November, with fans snapping it up from Seth’s website. It proved so popular that on the first day, the site crashed and by Christmas had completely sold out.

The rest of us will have to wait for national release in April.

Seth is on a rare day off while on a tour which tomorrow reaches Oxford. The show sees Seth accompanied by his band – including his brother Sean, with whom he has played since childhood. His other brother Sam, with whom he has performed and recorded, is also an acclaimed artist in his own right, and is married to Irish folk star Cara Dillon.

“It’s going really well,” he says.

“I’m very happy with it and people are enjoying the new stuff.”

He admits it’s hard to recreate the ambience of a tin mine or cooperage on stage. “I have tried to incorporate an old bucket and a 19th century Salvation Army drum, but that’s it. It is hard to keep it real, though. I thought of dressing up the stage with barrels, but I couldn’t be bothered!”

So where does he go next?

“I’m interested in picking up a fictional person and following them through their life.”

But the source of the stories behind the songs will remain the same as ever.

“They all come from old books – or from just chatting to people in the pub.”