For the sake of thoroughness and clarity, as well as including all the important Watersons recordings that feature Martin Carthy, this discography also includes the major pre-Carthy era releases and a number of related family projects.
Pre-Carthy era Watersons
The original Watersons were siblings Mike, Lal and Norma plus their cousin John Harrison. Hailing from Hull in the north of England, they gigged extensively – although largely on a ‘part-time’ basis – from the early 1960s until 1968 and released three influential full-length albums as well as appearing on a number of compilations and anthologies. When they retired in 1968 – effectively due to touring fatigue – Norma moved to the West Indies to work as a DJ, Mike and Lal began songwriting both together and seperately, and John moved to London and permanently retired from music.
Carthy era Watersons
The Bright Phoebus project – on which Carthy plays guitar or sings on all but the first track – acted as a precursor to a full Watersons reunion. Bernie Vickers had initially replaced John Harrison in the lineup but Carthy would become Harrison’s permanent replacement by the time the group started gigging in earnest around 1973 by which point Carthy and Norma Waterson had married. In 1987 The Watersons teamed up with fellow unaccompanied singers Swan Arcade to for the eight-piece Blue Murder, who toured sporadically for a couple of years but never released any recordings.
The Watersons continued to gig regularly up to the late 1980s and – less frequently and with a fluctuating lineup – into the early 90s. By 1994 Mike and Lal Waterson had more or less retired from live performance and Martin & Norma were regularly collaborating with their daughter Eliza in Waterson:Carthy. In 2002 Blue Murder, now consisting of Mike & Norma Waterson, Martin & Eliza Carthy plus Coope, Boyes & Simpson, released their sole album and played the festival circuit over the next few years. Although The Watersons had effectively ceased to exist in their familiar format, various past and present members – alongside others from the extended Waterson family – continued to collaborate on live and recorded projects and a number of archive recordings began to surface.