WATERSON: CARTHY Common Tongue

Topic TSCD 488
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The Independent Culture
Notwithstanding the geographical red herrings in titles such as "Lowlands of Holland", "French Stroller", "American Stranger" and "The Grand March in the Battle of Prague", this latest album by Brit-folk's first family focuses specifically on English folk music, the group surmising that there are already plenty of bands specialising in Scots and Irish airs. Indeed, the proliferation of foreign places in these songs is probably testament to the far-flung nature of the British Empire in its heyday, rather than to any overt foreign stylistic influence.

It's a diverse enough collection, with Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and their "folkbabe" daughter Eliza Carthy taking turns fronting songs about feckless libertines, lovelorn lasses, and giants with pet pigs. Accompaniment is provided by Eliza's violin and Martin's guitar and mandolin, augmented when necessary by hammered dulcimer and melodeon (a kind of accordion), on tempi ranging from blues laments and stately waltzes to a more nimble hornpipe. Standout moments include Norma and Eliza's harmonies on "Meeting Is a Pleasure", whose title belies its wistful, somewhat sad tone, and a version of "Stars in My Crown", the Baptist hymn featured in Dennis Potter's Cold Lazarus, on which the extended Waterson family help bring the album to a suitably moving conclusion.

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