Britain's premier family of folk music
Peter Durward Harris | Leicester England | 05/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mike Waterson and his two sisters, Norma and Elaine (known as Lal), originally formed the group together with a cousin, John Harrison. The group disbanded in 1966 but re-formed in 1972 with Bernie Vickers replacing John. After recording one album, Martin Carthy replaced Bernie. Martin remained a member of Steeleye Span and soon married Norma, their marriage producing Eliza Carthy, who eventually became a major star of the British folk scene.
The members of the group worked on various albums together, separately and with other folk singers. Although this does not contain any of Martin's music with Steeleye Span (easily obtained elsewhere), it includes some recordings by Waterson-Carthy (Martin, Norma and Eliza) and Blue Murder (Mike, Martin, Norma, Eliza and three non-family members) among other collaborative efforts. Another member of the Waterson family, Maria, joins in on some tracks.
The music here is traditional folk music as it should sound and, with one exception, the performances are outstanding. The exception, Amazing grace, could have been outstanding. It is another collaborative effort, this time with Peter Bellamy. He recites each line before the group sings it. This would be fine on a live recording where the audience is expected to sing along, but this is a studio recording and the constant recital is an irritation. Only on the last chorus does the recitation cease but by then the irritation has taken its toll.
With one exception, all the songs here are traditional. Apart from Amazing grace, the most famous song here is Emmanuel. The other songs include the Holmfirth anthem (no, it's not the theme to Last of the summer wine, though that TV series is what Holmfirth is famous for now), The welcome sailor, Fare thee well cold winter, Rosebuds in June, Swansea town, The old churchyard and many other excellent songs.
This collection provides a fine introduction to the music of the Watersons. I could take a star off for Amazing grace, but there are eighteen other tracks here, all of them outstanding and the price is modest so I won't."