Friday, January 25, 2013

Special Award

This special award is given to the live performance I went to in 2012 which was most Special.


Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy and the Gift Band
St Georges, Bristol, 5th Dec 

Martin has to help Norma on and off the stage, but otherwise she seems unchanged from when I last saw her two year ago, before the illness. Not a conventionally beautiful singing voice, but songs carried through personality and conviction; from God Loves a Drunk to Buddy Can You Spare A Dime (astonishing!) via Ukulele Lady; to say nothing of one of those long grim rambling narratives that we probably associate more with her husband. ("What would you give to your brother's wife? / A widow's weeds and a peaceful life.") They finish on Grace Darling, with all the daft actions ("and she ROWED away o're the foaming sea, over the ocean blue; HELP HELP she could hear the cries of the shipwrecked crew...") There is a standing ovation, of course and foot stamping. Eliza comes back on to the stage "Mum says thank you, but she's too tired to do any more, after all that rowing."

Nic Jones
Sep 22nd, Cecil Sharp House

Since noticing that I liked this stuff several years ago, I have got to hear live performances by most of the artists I admire including several bona fide legends — Robin Williamson; Martin Carthy; Ashley Hutchings, David Swarbrick and Richard Thompson (though not all at once); and even, at some distance, Bob Dylan. But I never thought that there was any chance that I would get to join in with Nic Jones singing Little Pot Stove.

And now I have.

Leon Rosselson
June 16, Cellar Upstairs Folk Club, London

It may be true that Anon is the greatest writers of all time, but it's well to remember that songs like “In 1649…” and “Palaces of Gold” and “Stand Up For Judas” "Song of the Olive Tree" didn’t just fall out of the sky — they were thought up by a person , a rather unassuming, awkward even, little man who sings complex, clever, funny patter songs with honesty and conviction. And I have been in the same room as him and said thank-you-i-enjoyed-the-gig. I am never going to get to say that to Bob Dylan, am I?

The Copper Family
Nov 1st, Cecil Sharp House

There is a sense in which the Copper Family is English Folk Music. There is another sense in which they are a group of non professional musicians singing acapella songs in pretty much the same style they have been doing for generations. People talk about Coppersongs in the same way they talk about Child Ballads. Hearing them live is something of folk pilgrimage. 

And the winner is

It's an artificial, business, isn't it, giving awards; musicians aren't marrows to give gold rosettes to. In a very real sense they are all winners.

All right, all right: Norma. Norma Waterson was the most special evening of 2012: for the musicianship; the range of songs; and the huge affection and good will, not to say relief, from the audience. "It's good to be back" says Norma at one point. Well, quite.