1994 : The Kershaw Sessions

Martin Carthy

01 : When I Was Young
02 : Rufford Park Poachers
03 : Hommage a Roche Proulx
04 : Company Policy
05 : La Cardeuse
06 : Aux Anciens Parapets
07 : The Dominion of the Sword
08 : The Famous Flower of Serving Men

First released in the UK 1994 by Strange Roots ROOT CD2

Two complete sessions from Andy Kershaw’s (then) BBC Radio One show. Tracks 1-4 are from July 9 1987 and 5-8 are from September 15 1988.

Interesting largely for a solo When I Was Young (which would later enter the re-formed Brass Monkey set), alternative early lyrics on Company Policy and Miles Wooton’s Aux Anciens Parapets (set to Anton Caras’ Harry Lime Theme).

Martin Carthy: vocals, guitar

Producer: Dale Griffn
Engineers: Ted De Bono and Miti Adhikari

All tracks Traditional, arr. Martin Carthy except:
04: Martin Carthy
06: Miles Wooton / Anton Caras

Tracks 1 – 4: 9/7/87 © BBC 1987
Tracks 5 – 8: 15/9/88 © BBC 1988

Photography by Dave Peabody

Sleeve Notes:

One of the primary attractions of live music is its potential for providing insights into the creative process. One never ending source of enjoyment and excitement is the way a master like Martin Carthy taps into a mood or the moment to draw out a new interpretation, or accentuates a particular phrase, skips or syncopates a beat, or imbues a line with new colour. And the place where that happens – and we get to experience it – is during the live performance. That is where magic gathers shape and substance.

Few permanent records have survived to chronicle the lost generations of musical tweakings and lyrical teasings which brought us these versions of Company Policy, Rufford Park Poachers or Aux Anciens Parapets. That is why this is the stuff of dreams, each freeze-framing a moment in an evolutionary chain.

The creative process that keeps Martin Carthy’s music fresh – both in the sense of a piece of music he has played countless times or on the wider sense of something from the tradition – has been played out for time out of mind. Hoary old cliche that it is, that is the folk tradition at work, the oral process in practice. That is why when Martin Carthy relates an encounter naming names and places as specifically as in Rufford Park Poachers – no matter which Rufford Park is the rightful claimant – or unfolds a story as steeped in inventiveness as Famous Flower Of Serving Men, he draws our nuances and insights that are likely to set the thought process ticking long after the last note has decayed away. Or has been preserved by some Philip K. Dick-style time-traveller going back to gather evidence of the folk revival. Or by some radio broadcaster.

Listening back to these recordings continues the process in another way too. The passage of time guarantees fresh interpretations. Company Policy in 1987 pondered how Falklands folly  could blind. 1994 saw allegations of British atrocities tarnish Falklands military glories. Aux Anciens Parapets cited examples of what made America grate. In April 1994 Nixon was dead and politicians fell over themselves to praise Nixon’s statesmanlike qualities. By then the song had been dropped from Martin Carthy’s repertoire for five years, a victim of its need for continual updating in order for it to stay fresh and of audiences interpreting it as pure Yank-bashing – which it never was. Like Rufford Park Poachers or Famous Flower Of Serving Men, the attraction of these songs derives as much from how time uncorks unexpected potential latent within them as in the straightforward pleasure gained from listening to them. Magisterial performers need to be listened to for their sakes as much as ours. Martin Carthy is one such performer.

Ken Hunt May 1994


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