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Martin Carthy

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:

Traditional English and some contemporary folk


Most recent releases, Martin Carthy at Ruskin Mill (live, 2005), Straws in the Wind (with Dave Swarbrick, 2006); most recent solo studio album, Waiting for Angels (2004)

See also:

Topic Records' Martin Carthy Page

Wikipedia's entry on Martin Carthy

Ectophiles' Guide entries for Martin Carthy's other projects: Martin Carthy is a former member of Steeleye Span and is currently also with Waterson:Carthy and The Watersons, in addition to frequent tours with Dave Swarbrick.


Silly Sisters, Steeleye Span without the rock instrumentation, the stripped-down side of Cordelia's Dad. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Traditional British folksongs

General comments:

Martin Carthy is from a long line of traditional folksingers, but his work has a liveliness and complexity that defies its simple instrumentation (actually, I hesitate to call his fine guitar work "simple" as he's an impressive musician). I love the way he presents traditional folk with his brilliant guitar work and his expressive voice. He has been recording since the 1960s. He is a former member of several groups, including Steeleye Span and The Watersons, and also currently tours with his wife Norma Waterson and daughter Eliza Carthy as Waterson:Carthy, but he also frequently tours and records solo or with fiddle player Dave Swarbrick. Topic Records has re-released his earlier recordings on cd in Britain (they appear fairly frequently in the U.S. in import and world music sections).
     The 2001 box set, The Carthy Chronicles, captures the flavour of his career beautifully in four discs: Classic Carthy (selected definitive versions), Carthy in Company (selections from the various groups and groupings that Carthy has played with), Carthy Contemporaries (selected versions of contemporary folk songs), and Child: Carthy (selected versions of traditional English ballads). (Neile)

Byker Hill with Dave Swarbrick (1967): an early classic from the man I've seen play live more often than anybody else, here with his oppo Swarb. By this time Carthy was well into his stride: the guitar playing delights and the vocal delivery has power. The violin is well integrated and the pair's commitment to the music shines through. (

Comments about live performance:

I've seen Martin Carthy perform live many times, frequently with Dave Swarbrick. His expressive voice and fine guitar work is always a delight, and he's relaxed and fun on stage. Highly recommended. (Neile)

Recommended first album:

Any—all are good. A Collection may be the best place to start, while The Carthy Chronicles is definitely for the collector, though it would serve as a great introduction as well for someone who wanted a larger selection. As far as the individual collections goes, I am particularly fond of Second Album and Right of Passage, though Prince Heathen and Crown of Horn may be the most famous. The song that always gets stuck in my head, though, is the title track from Byker Hill—come to think of it, that whole album is especially delightful, too. (Neile)

Recordings include:

    • Martin Carthy (1965)
    • Second Album (with Dave Swarbrick, 1966)
    • Landfall (1971)
    • Shearwater (1972)
    • Crown of Horn (1976)
    • Because It's There (1979)
    • Sweet Wivelsfield (1981)
    • Out of the Cut (1982)
    • Right of Passage (1988)
    • Signs of Life (1998)
    • A Collection (compilation, 2001)
    • The Carthy Chronicles (box set compilation, 2001)
    • The Definitive Collection (compliation, 2003)
    • Waiting for Angels (2004)
    • Martin Carthy at Ruskin Mill (live, 2005)
    Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick:
    • Byker Hill (1967)
    • But Two Came By (1968)
    • Prince Heathen (1969)
    • Life and Limb (1991)
    • Skin and Bone (1992)
    • Straws in the Wind (2006)

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2022-01-17 14:12:00.
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