Monday, March 03, 2008
And, speaking of England, last night a friend invited me to join him at a concert in Blakeney. Martin Carthy was playing. Of course, I knew who he was, but British folk, even at the height of the late sixties revival, has always passed me by. Carthy is the great hero of folkies. Dylan picked up the idiom from him and Paul Simon spotted him at once. Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair is pure Carthy. But, as I say, it had all passed me by. Carthy was playing with his partner, Norma Waterson, their daughter Eliza Carthy and Tim van Eyken. There was a capacity crowd of about two hundred. It was a characterless hall that looked as though it would be better used for a protest meeting about the installation of new benches on the quay. It should have been the Albert Hall if not Wembley Arena. Carthy and his band were sensational, breathtaking. Carthy's guitar style is unique. He had the distracted air of a man looking at himself and the tradition as if in a dream. He was selling CDs at the interval. I asked him why we don't make music as freely and easily as they do in America or Ireland. He spoke of places in Sheffield where they sing their own carols every Christmas and where everybody is expected to contribute new elements to the tradition. English folk - not just as a hobby but as a living tradition of informal music making - is. like England, not quite dead. The concert ended with a piercing a cappella blessing and valedictory - 'I love you well, but Jesus loves you best'. There were no dry eyes.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:08 am