Friday, August 20, 2010

The Watersons

Last weekend I went to a tremendous concert at Hull Truck Theatre, featuring the Watersons. The Waterson family come from Hull, so this was a home gig, as it were, and the audience clearly contained many family and old friends, so it was a poignant event. For those not familiar with English traditional music, the Waterson family are probably (along with the Coppers) the pre-eminent family within the tradition. Mike, Norma and Lal began singing in the 60s and Norma married Martin Carthy, one of the giants of the folk scene (to whom Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, among others, owe, though don't necessarily acknowledge, a huge debt). Norma and Martin have been performing with their daughter Eliza as Waterson:Carthy for a number of years now, but Sunday's performance contained the wider Waterson family - Mike and his wife and children and Lal's children. They make spine-tingling music.

This is "Bunch of Thyme" sung by Norma, with accompaniment from Martin and Chris Parkinson. This isn't as good as the version that the Watersons sang to finish Sunday's concert, but it gives a fine taste of Norma's remarkable voice. I thought this song had been irrevocably ruined by Foster and Allen's saccharine version, but Norma brings it back to life. It's a beautiful song, and with it's heart-rending but curiously uplifting final line, "Time brings all things to an end", it brings a lump to the throat. I'm only glad I heard them sing it before the two deaths I've written about in the posts below, otherwise I would have been a blubbering wreck.


2frogsngrasshopper said...

Just beautiful! Thank you for putting that up. I had heard part of this song on a cd and had been humming the melody for a couple of days. Looked it up today to find the lyrics and story and then came across your blog. I'm glad I found it!

Tom Conoboy said...

Glad you enjoyed this. It is a beautiful song.

Mike Waterson was clearly not a well man during the performance I saw (not the one on this YouTube video). He died not long after. The concert I saw was, I think, the second last one he ever did. I'm very grateful to have had that opportunity.

And this is a beautiful song.