01 : The Ant and the Grasshopper
02 : Eggs in Her Basket
03 : A Stitch in Time
04 : McVeagh
05 : Hommage a Roche Proulx (CD only)
06 : All in Green
07 : Company Policy
08 : The Banks of the Nile
09 : La Cardeuse
10 : Bill Norrie
11 : The Sleepwalker
12 : A Cornish Young Man (CD only)
13 : The Dominion of the Sword
First released in the UK 1988 by Topic Records 12TS452 (vinyl), KTSC452 (cassette) and TSCD452 (CD with extra tracks)
Martin Carthy: guitar, mandolin, vocals
John Kirkpatrick: one-row melodeon, button accordion
Chris Wood: fiddle
Dave Swarbrick: fiddle on All in Green
Recorded at Riverside Studios, London
Produced by Martin Carthy and David Kenny
Recorded by David Kenny at IdealSound, September 1988
Photography by Dace Peabody
Design by Tony Eagle
1: Leon Rosselson
2, 8-10 & 12: Traditional, arr. Martin Carthy
3: Mike Waterson
4, 7 & 11: Martin Carthy
5: Marcel Messervier
6: e e cummings arr. Martin Carthy
13: PD new words Martin Carthy pub
Leon Rosselson is probably one of the most consistent songwriters around. He wrote The Ant And The Grasshopper in the early 1970s from a French children’s story. Unconnected, but also in the 1970s, a cardboard box containing over a hundred wax cylinders of music, recorded before the first World War, came to light in Cecil Sharp House. They were in varying states of decrepitude—none was identified—so the educated guessers went to work and they identified a Vaughan Williams recording of Harriet Verrall singing Eggs In Her Basket, whence I learned this. The sailor’s flash of temper at the end would seem to make him a cousin in spirit to the character finally on the receiving end in A Stitch In Time, a true story put into song by Mike Waterson about four years ago. It happened about 1962 in the Hessle Road area of Hull and the tune is that of a brutal Royal Navy song called On Board of a Man-of-war.
McVeagh is John McVeagh, a man with whom I struck up a real friendship in the space of less than a week during a tour of Ireland in 1974. I never saw him but once briefly after that and heard by the most extraordinary of routes, that he had died in a swimming accident in Tralee Bay. Seven hours on a bus between Athlone and Belfast reflecting on the whole thing produced this tune.
All In Green is a love poem by E E Cummings for which I had long wished to have a go at making a tune. Several false starts later I heard the minuet from Mozart’s Hunt Quartet, so I went out and bought a shoe horn and set of G clamps and tried again.
As an avid stamp collector when I was a little boy I was, for some reason, fascinated by the Falkland Islands, and I remember first hearing the name Malvinas during the fifties and then approximately every ten years after that. It still astonishes me that during the 1982 war there was so very little, if any, public questioning of the basic notions which Parliament and the press propagated. The first war that England had watched on TV may have had something to do with it, and certainly I shall not forget the utterly toneless briefings of that MOD official night after night. I’m sure he’s always existed and that the armed forces have always made use of him. I’m equally sure that the laughing, cheering and banging of drums that saw off the task force was replaced in fairly short order by the sort of doubt, misery and torture to be found In The Banks of The Nile. This, like Eggs In Her Basket, is a song from the Cardboard Box, but unlike that song there is no clue to the identity of the singer nor the one who recorded him. Whoever he is, he is a fabulously inventive musician and I for one would love to know his name. I’m indebted to Malcolm Taylor at the Vaughan Williams Library for letting me hear it.
La Cardeuse is a Quebecois tune which I learned from Lisa Ornstein, that most meticulous of fiddle players whose steadiness is spiced with a dash that can take you out of your chair.
That the world is full of walking emotional time bombs will come as no news, nor should it be surprising that people have sung about it for a long time. Neither Bill Norrie nor the unnamed woman in the song have told another nearest or dearest the true nature of their relationship and the countdown starts at once.
The Sleepwalker is Lady MacBeth as played by the extraordinarily powerful Irish actress Sinead Cusack. She s a clever woman and I was lucky enough twice to see her performance with Jonathan Pryce as MacBeth, and this is for her. It started out as a march, but ‘it’ had other ideas and, in consequence, the first part has echoes of a Kerry polka whose name I can’t remember. The rest is as independent as it can be (!).
A long time ago I came across The Dominion Of The Sword in a Penguin anthology of War Poetry, and the longer I have known it the better it’s got. It was written in 1649 by an anonymous pamphleteer and with the removal of verses or lines particular to that time becomes a reflection of the propaganda lie currently being touted for all it’s worth (again) that violence or the threat of it will get you nowhere. The tune is adapted from a Breton pipe tune called Ar Ch’akouz (The Leper).
Martin Carthy, 1988