Rychard Carrington reports on Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy & Chris Parkinson – Cambridge Folk Club, 12 March 2010

Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy & Chris Parkinson
Cambridge Folk Club


A church (St. Luke's in Victoria Road) is an interesting venue for a folk concert, despite the alcohol restrictions. A sense of the presence of eternal truths, of what connects us with our ancestors, of a desire for community. Two very different traditions. Compare, contrast, and appreciate.

The British folk scene is full of good, talented, unostentatious people who express themselves powerfully through their deep love of music (towering above all the facile 'folk is cool' marketing tosh). Yet perhaps no one epitomises the sterling qualities of the folk rervival as well as Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. The audience was full of friendly yet deep respect, and it's heartening that the gig was sold out in advance. One is sure that sincere appreciation of their music means more to the couple than their MBEs.

They gave us what we hoped for, of course. Their set list changes all the time, but the essential character is unaltered. Both sing as well as ever. Norma radiates a warm power, while Martin has a quieter passion. Martin also retains a great, distinctive guitar style that works so well with traditional material.

And what of Chris Parkinson, their new associate. formerly of The House Band? He is happy to play slightly in the background, but his melodeon contributes effectively, not least on a couple of solo slots. Clearly a compatible spirit.

Solo slots, a cappella numbers and instrumentals made for a rich musical variety. In terms of derivation, the set was also eclectic, including numbers from Wales and France, and several from America. The most popular number was Black Muddy River, by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. If Norma and Martin perform it, it's bona fide folk.

It adds to the sense of something beyond the ephemeral that Norma is now seventy, Martin sixty-eight. For the final number, the Irish A Bunch Of Thyme, it was impossiblenot  to hear 'time':

For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things to my mind
Thyme with all its flavours,
Along with all its joys
Thyme brings all things to my mind

Bravo! Long live Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Chris Parkinson! Long live Canmbridge Folk Club! Long live folk!

Writer: Rychard Carrington