Sunday, June 06, 2010

Martin Carthy / Jim Causely / Emily Portman

Bath Fringe Festival (Tent)
4 June

Martin Carthy wasn't allowed to do an encore. He had already sung all twenty four stanzas of Prince Heathen, including the twiddly bits between the verses. So the show had gone on 15 minutes longer than planned: any later and the tent might have lost its licence...

He also did Lochmaben Harper, which I'm sure I've never heard before, about a harper who makes one of those unwise bets that he can steal the king's favourite horse. He (Martin) claims that it is the most satisfying song in the repertoire. When you know as many songs as Martin Carthy you must have a lot of favourites. (The harper's wife comes up with a ruse to win the bet. Martin says it's always the musician's wife who has to think up a "plan B".)
He also does a lot of the old staples, of course, including the most spine-tingling version of the The Trees They Grow So High I've ever heard.

Jim Causely is notably less silly without Mawkin to banter with, but these things are relative: the set includes a song about a ferret to the tune of My Grandfather's Clock! (And Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, of course.)
His accordian playing is pretty good. There's a poetic vibe to the set. He sings a version of a Dylan Thomas poem about looking for "long linbed summer girls" on the beach. (
"If I tell you who it's by, you'll say "meh, Streets of London"). He also does his own rendition of
"All Souls Day" by Charles Causely, of whom he turns out to be a distant relation.

Emily Portman, who I've never heard before or of, sang a lot of down tempo songs of her own, cleverly and obliquely inspired by fairy tales. They were very dense and I'd like to hear them again. I enjoyed the
jolly traditional number about wife beating ("He put the salt-hide on her back / Hide woman hide /He beat her blue, he beat her black / That'll lay down your pride"). I'm not sure we actually needed the additional verse in which the man gets his comeuppance: we could probably have taken it for granted that the singer didn't approve of domestic violence. She finishes with a Lal Waterson song in which Martin Carthy joins her. Isn't it lovely that such a senior performer will play guitar for the relative newcomers who are supporting him?

As a result of the lady spending quite such a long time refusing to cry when the heathen dog tells her to, I missed the last train back to Bristol and had to sit on Bath Station until 1.15 AM. Worth it, though, definitely worth it.

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