Martin Carthy at Westcliff on Sea
Seamus McGarvey reviews a show by Martin Carthy at The Hoy at Anchor Folk Club, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, on June 9th 2015.
At this South Essex folk club, celebrating its 45th year, I was recently lucky enough to catch an appearance by legendary folk singer-guitarist Martin Carthy, someone I'd not seen perform for some 20 years. This fine performer, now aged 74 and still a very powerful entertainer, proved himself a strong vocalist, an interesting and witty raconteur and story-teller, and an excellent guitarist. Known mainly as a highly individualistic interpreter of traditional folk songs, he has collaborated with many other folk artists including fiddle player Dave Swarbrick, was a member of The Watersons, and a member of Steeleye Span in the early and late 1970s.
Over two sets, Martin featured a mixture of tempos and styles, from his opening version of Ewan MacColl's 'Champion At Keeping 'em Rolling', a lilting number with wonderful lyrics, and 'Her Servant Man' from his 2014 album with his daughter Eliza, through to 'John Barleycorn' which he recorded in the mid-'60s. Other highlights included 'My Son John', an English version of the old Irish anti-war song 'Mrs. McGrath', 'Geordie' which he'd learned from John Pearse, and from The Shetlands, 'When I Was A Little Boy'. He wasn't afraid to shout 'come on!' when he couldn't quite get his fingers to do what he wanted them to do guitar-wise, or re-start a song to get it right, and he made everyone laugh with stories ranging from a cautionary tale about pickpockets, to his recollections about featuring at Weymouth Arts Centre songs collected and sung by a local singer from Upwey, Dorset, Marina Russell, only to have someone shout out, 'We all thought Gran was mad'! He showed great skill on guitar with his finger-style playing on instrumentals like the melodic 'The Heroes of Saint Valery' which he recorded as a member of Brass Monkey, and his encore, 'The Harry Lime Theme' from the film 'The Third Man', featuring some highly intricate chord shapes and finger-picking. All in all, a great evening's entertainment.
The club stages weekly shows featuring artists from around the world as well as local artists, and is well worth a visit. Their website is: www.ridgeweb.co.uk/hoy.htm . Seamus McGarvey