Waterson: Carthy; Whelans, Dublin

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
"They certainly change the set around..." said the diligent reviewer, straining to comprehend outrageously unwieldy song titles like "Labellazigazog" and fairly certain that a good deal of them hadn't appeared in the show the last time this most English of acts breezed in to Celtsville. "Yes, they bloody well do!" mumbled the suave young man hovering at the side of the stage. To say that melodeon player Saul Rose, who guests on the rightly acclaimed new Waterson: Carthy album Common Tongue, is a part- time member of the group is literally true - sidling offstage every couple of numbers to have a cigarette and check how the show's doing just to fill in time while the clan Carthy ignore the set list (which he knows) to dig up some old chestnut (which he doesn't) from repertoires that would account for some serious shelf space were it all on CD.

There can't be too many of English folk acts who could pack out Dublin's top roots/rock venue on a Tuesday night, but such are Waterson: Carthy - guitar god Martin Carthy, Mercury prize nominee Norma Waterson and "folkbabe" daughter Eliza. Eliza has a hell of a lot to live up to - not just the parents' reputation but a rainforest of drooling press profiles last year. Glad to say then that as a musician and singer she really is worth all the fuss. But what makes the Waterson: Carthy experience special is their musical and personal chemistry onstage that second-guesses weird timings, compensates for little mistakes, creates volleyball with the introductions and quite simply adds mightily to the sum of the parts.

They make English traditional music feel as sensual to the listener as its Celtic cousin. Material from Norma's solo album - including a truly beautiful reading of Ben Harper's "Pleasure And Pain" - mingled with older faves and new songs. Among these, "Rackabello" is a classic example of the sort of thing Martin Carthy has been peddling for decades but which now sounds wholly commercial. Top track of the night, though, was Eliza's ethereal "The Bonny Fisher Boy" - due on the June debut album from her and Saul's "other band", The King's Of Calicut. Is there no end to these people's versatility?

Colin Harper