Moments in a Devon spring
Early morning mist. Stillness. Silence.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Eliza and Martin Carthy

This week, tunes from a British folk dynasty: Martin Carthy, his wife Norma Waterson (from the famous Waterson family of singers), and their daughter Eliza Carthy.

First, above, Martin and fiddler Dave Swarbrick perform the traditional folk ballad "Sovay" on Yorkshire tv, back in 1989.

Below, eighteen years later, Martin and Norma back up Eliza in a performance of "Raggle, Taggle Gypsies," accompanied by Tim van Eyken and Saul Rose. (The song is followed by a Victorian-era hymn, "Stars in my Crown," sung a capella.)


In the final video, below, father and daughter perform another traditional ballad, "Cold Haily Night," as members of  The Imagined Village.

The Imagine Village was formed in 2004 for the purpose "of exploring our musical roots and identity as English musicians and music makers....We are not trying to re-invent the wheel or for that matter re-invent the English folk tradition. What we are interested in is building an inclusive, creative community were we can engage in the debate passed down to us by the late Victorian collectors of English song, dance and stories spearheaded by Cecil Sharpe and his contemporaries and brought into contemporary resonance by Georgina Boyes in her book 'The Imagined Village', Billy Braggs recent works 'The Progressive Patriot', academics such as Paul Gilroys in 'After Empire Melancholia or Convivial Culture' and the commentaries of musicians such as Chris Wood, Eliza and Martin Carthy amongst others.

"We all walk in the footsteps of our Victorian song collecting ancestors but feel it is more relevant now than ever to question who decides what it is to be authentic and English and more importantly what it is that makes us proud to be English musicians."

Eliza Carthy used to play down here in Devon back in the '90s at a little dance club buried in the hedgerows near Ashburton (now gone, alas). I remember her as a young girl with brightly colored hair (usually red or blue), punk-romantic clothes, biker boots, and an absolutely wicked way with a fiddle, keeping the club heaving into the wee hours. Afterwards, my companions and I would drive home over the dark, mist-covered moor...slowy, slowy, edging the car around Dartmoor sheep sleeping on the road and wild ponies looming suddenly out of the dark, Eliza's music, or The Levellers or The Saw Doctors (who also played at that same club) on the tape deck. Sweet memories...

That's Chris Wood singing with Eliza on "Cold Haily Night," by the way. He was featured in a gypsy-themed "Monday Tunes" post last year (singing Ewan MacColl's "Moving On Song"), with a voice that makes me weakin the knees.

Eliza Carthy 1990s

Eliza Carthy, circa 1990s