For more than 40 years Martin Carthy has been one of folk music's greatest innovators, one of its best loved, most enthusiastic and, at times, most quietly controversial of figures. His skill, stage presence and natural charm have won him many admirers, not only from within the folk scene, but also far beyond it. Trailblazing musical partnerships with, amongst others, Steeleye Span, Dave Swarbrick and his award-winning wife (Norma Waterson) and daughter Eliza Carthy have resulted in more than 40 albums, but Martin has only recorded 10 solo albums, of which the much anticipated Waiting for Angels (Topic TSCD527) is the latest.
Whether in the folk clubs (which he continues to champion), on the concert stage or making TV appearances (he was the subject of the acclaimed `Originals' music documentary strand on BBC 2) - there are few roles that Martin Carthy hasn't played. He's a ballad singer, a groundbreaking acoustic & electric guitarist and an authoritative interpreter of newly composed material. He always prefers to follow an insatiable musical curiosity rather than cash in on his unrivalled position. Perhaps, most significant of all, are his settings of traditional songs with guitar, which have influenced a generation of artists, including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, on both sides of the Atlantic.
British traditional folk music is rooted in a vocal tradition of hundreds of years as well as a strong dance culture. It is not bound by any time or bar structure. The guitarist must find ways to explore, reinforce, accent and embellish these melodies. Martin Carthy has successfully done this with the C G C D G A tuning. He plays with a heavy percussive attack and has a unique sense of phrasing and a strong emotional and atmospheric feel for his music. In this DVD lesson, Martin explains in detail his playing techniques and style for seven of his most popular arrangements.
Titles include: Old Tom of Oxford, The Heroes of St. Valery, The Siege Of Delhi, La Cardeuse, McVeagh, The Harry Lime Theme and Seven Yellow Gypsies.
55 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: Here Carthy teaches a total of six instrumentals and one song using the conventional “split-screen” mode familiar from most guitar videos. For each tune Carthy gives a brief introduction (nothing too technical at this stage - more like condensed versions of his stage intros) then plays the tune through once. Any quirks of technique are then briefly explained before the screen is split and each separate part played through slowly (with some parts repeated to show variations where they occur). This whole process goes some way towards demystifying the Carthy technique, but even with the additional help of a booklet giving full notation and tablature for all the tunes (and words for the song) the material here is still largely for the more advanced guitarist.
Heroes Of St. Valerie and McVeagh are obviously the easiest tunes here but they both still require commitment and patience to master. The rest will be well beyond the reaches of both beginners and most intermediate players. The reality though is that this release is less interesting as a guitar tutor than it is as a simple performance video. Just watching Carthy perform these eight tracks (morris tune and Carthy live staple Banbury Bill goes uncredited but is played over the closing titles) is the real pleasure here, as is Carthy's lengthy description of how he came to devise his unique tuning (via Davey Graham and DADGAD you may not be surprised to learn). Any apparent hostility he may have previously displayed towards this kind of project is gone as he finally implores the viewer/player to persevere and “have fun.” – Come Sing It Plain/Kevin Boyd