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18/Sep/2009

TOPIC 70 at The Southbank

TOPIC 70 at The Southbank – THE WATERSON FAMILY & ELIZA CARTHY BAND THE GUARDIAN Great folk music is concerned with history, tradition and change, and this emotional concert was a reminder of the continuing story of one of England's most adventurous musical families. The original Watersons were a four-piece from Yorkshire who started out in the 1960s singing unaccompanied traditional songs with extraordinary passion. They recorded for Topic Records, now the oldest independent label in the world, and the present-day family group were back to launch Topic's 70th birthday celebrations and show how their music has progressed. Nine Watersons were on stage, with the two members of the original quartet surrounded by their relatives. There was the boisterous Norma Waterson, in a long black dress, accompanied by husband Martin Carthy and equally celebrated daughter, Eliza. Then there was Norma's brother Mike, looking as if he had just wandered in from a country pub, with his cloth cap and pint. His wife and two daughters were also here, as were Oliver and Marry, the son and daughter of Lal Waterson, who died in 1998. They started as if they were in a folk club, singing unaccompanied and transforming the Earsdon Sword Dance Song (recorded by the original group in 1965) with stirring nine-part harmonies. This is a family who can all still sing. The second half showed they can write as well. Eliza was backed by her own musicians for an impressively varied set that included Mohair, a poignant tribute to her late auntie Lal, and her band stayed on when the full Watersons ensemble returned for a reminder of Lal and Mike's songwriting skills. A rousing treatment of Mike's Bright Phoebus was followed by Lal's thoughtful Fine Horseman, with gently powerful vocals from Marry. Then it was back to unaccompanied singing, and Lal's stirring modern shanty, Some Old Salty. This is an extraordinary family.


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