on 27 September 2002
The carthy-waterson ensemble/family never fail to touch one's heart with their music. If you're a fan of Norma Waterson or Eliza Carthy, you will not be disappointed. The same applies for all those who enjoy english folk music. The "Raggle Taggle Gypsies" is an incredible song, one of my all-time favourites by this wonderful family. All those who have already heard other albums released by Norma, Eliza or Martin will surely be swepy away by this wonderful album. For those of you who have not heard them yet, this album presents a great oportunity to tune into the world of folk music.
I have all the Waterson:Carthy albums, and the wonder is that each is essential, with a quality and atmosphere of its own, some being more boisterous or flamboyant than others.
This is perhaps the family's most sheerly beautiful record to date, though A Dark Light runs it close. There's a slightly more pensive feel to many of the numbers, though the trio of hornpipe tunes that break the spell halfway through would get a corpse up dancing.
Joined by Saul Rose - a new family member back in 1999 - they've decided to begin the set with two slower numbers, both wonderful: Eliza singing an idiosyncratic version of Raggle Taggle Gipsies (I'm a sucker for anything with 'gipsies' in the title, however it's spelt) and Norma's lovely reading of The Bay Of Biscay, a song about which Martin Carthy, in his as ever excellent, witty booklet notes, rightly declares 'There is no other song quite like it'. He's right.
There's the usual smattering of instrumentals, along with more songs to die for in the shape of The Wounded Hussar, The Lion's Den, Fare Thee Well Cold Winter, We Poor Labouring Men, and The Forsaken Mermaid, this last sung by Eliza, already in her mid-twenties showing what a force of nature she can be.
This rewarding selection ends on an uproarious note with a catchily eccentric song called The Bald Headed End Of The Broom, sung with huge panache by Martin - who in other settings can occasionally sound a touch earnest, dare I say it - who here sounds like he's having a whale of a time, backed as he is by the massed brass and drums of the Phoenix New Orleans Parade Band. (I'm not making this up.) It's a tremendous song, and made me want to get up and do that ol' folk boogie - whatever that might be.
In an odd way that I can't quite explain, these Waterson:Carthy albums remind me of the handful of late 'American Recordings' series by Johnny Cash. Something to do perhaps with setting records straight, immortalising what's basic, honest and at times bracingly austere in its often ancient essence. Just a thought.
This family makes music that's lasted, making it to last. A wonderful English recording!