Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick
WALNUT CREEK: LIVE RECORDINGS 1989-1996
Fellside Recordings Ltd.
A piece of Folk Revivalist heritage given a bit of new life.
This year sees Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick both celebrating their 70th birthdays and, as Paul Adams says in the cover sleeve to the album, the pair often seem to be ‘an institution, in the sense of being always familiar, always around.’ Hailing from their respective iconic bands (Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention) the two have collaborated on and off since the 60s and this album brings together a collection of more recent live recordings.
There is an obvious joy to be had in the fact that these are live. Intuitive to each other, both take risks in performance and some of the straight instrumentals show the kind of spontaneity that has entertained audiences for years. ‘Porcupine Rag’ is a great example, Carthy on the guitar and Swarbrick on the mandolin, each trying to catch up with each other. And it also has a fumble at the beginning. One of the many hallmarks of character on WALNUT CREEK.
The album’s also just a really good way to catch up with these guys; it’s neither an old record nor a ‘best of’ compilation and it benefits from this eclecticism, showing the Revivalists off properly. There is the meaty Dominion of the Sword from their 1988 album ‘Right of Passage’, in which Carthy spits out words like tongue-twisters: ‘It'll the foster the master, plaster disaster…Ventures, enters, seeks and it centres/Ever the upper hand, never a dissenter’. Then there is the classic Arthur McBride, carried instead by its melody and the movement of its narrative (a subversive tale of an uprising against military leaders). And, characteristically, they will always surprise you. Based on the role of the Olympics in South African apartheid, Carthy developed A Question of Sport over the course of three years. He had the time to carve into it again and again and the lyrics have wonderfully frustrated and surreal qualities.
With all the fun of the real thing, this is album is a good afternoon in the making. I can only give it the recommendation that it deserves. Katy Browse