Historical setting, murder, adultery, the supernatural! Is this television? A new Rosemary Rogers epic? No, it's the stomping of Martin Carthy, one of the most influential and popular British folk revivalists, who ends a brief stint at the Cellar Door tonight.
Although Carthy is undoubtedly the drawing card, he is heard in two distinct roles. As a soloist, Carthy's strong voice and unique guitar stylings give credence to the world of imagination and history from which he draws his material. In the company of the Watersons (Norma, to whom he is married, Lal and Michael, who handle much of the lead), Carthy is merely one voice in the midst of some wonderfully realized modal harmonies.
The unaccompanied material of the Watersons is more obsessed with such seemingly mundane but elemental matters as sheep shearing, harvesting, shipwrecks, sword dancing and hunting dogs. Drawn from the whole of the British Isles, the songs at once respect the elements and celebrate the seasons. They are testimony to pre-industrialized England and the work and spiritualized ethic of country life. The languid insistence of harmonies celebrating ritual and ceremony are compelling, sometimes haunting, always astounding. The Watersons and Martin Carthy, Martin Carthy solo, the vivacious enthusiasm of the local folk duo Magpie - it all adds up to an evening of energetic revival.