mike waterson: today bright phoebus is smiling

The Guardian:As the seminal traditional folk group of the 1960s, with Mike as the male lead singer, the Watersons toured the country with traditional English songs in harmony and largely unaccompanied, breaking the mould of guitar and banjo-led folk groups. They appeared at folk festivals and clubs and recorded three solo albums in as many years before retiring in 1968, only to return with less punishing touring schedules in 1972.

Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/22/mike-waterson-obituary ---Mike started writing his own songs and soon found that Lal was doing likewise. They swapped songs and ideas, and their collaboration culminated in an album, Bright Phoebus (1972), which caused more than a few raised eyebrows among traditional folksong enthusiasts. Although most of the songs on the album came from Lal, Mike provided the two most enduring ones: Rubber Band (later covered by Fairport Convention) and the title track. Their jointly written song Danny Rose was recorded by Billy Bragg. The Watersons reformed in 1972 when Norma returned home from Montserrat, and her new husband, the folk singer Martin Carthy, replaced Harrison in the family group. The new lineup's first album, For Pence and Spicy Ale, became Melody Maker's folk album of the year in 1975.---

In the intervening years, Mike and Lal revealed themselves to be significant songwriters, and though Mike’s songs never achieved the popular success of his sister’s, their hard-hitting topics and humorous reflections on everyday life have been widely praised. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/22/mike-waterson-obituary

It’s hard to define the pervasive influence Mike Waterson had on popular music. The Waterson’s were the folk Beatles and all their work was imbued with a less mythical projection of Lennon’s Working Class Hero. These were folk songs as a voice, an articulated expression of the working class; echoes are heard from The Kinks Muswell Hillbillies, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Billy Bragg, Ralph McTell, and many many more. They dug up the old melodies, the sea shanty’s and a whole swath of language and music that recalls the England of Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding, but pertinent to the daily lives today. Ultimately, his reputation lies with the songcraft and compositional talent which straddles musical genres. Also, this unwillingness to become willing to sacrifice for the hype machine and the entire music industry apparatus is endearing.

Their numinosity lay in the way they dovetailed their vocal lines, leapt octaves and merged and blurred voices. What they sang was unprescriptive and unpredictable. They continually traded lead and subordinate vocal lines back and forth. Live, it became a matter of not merely listening to them, but watching whose lips were moving and lip-reading mouth shapes to work out who was producing what. Lal and Mike might be singing syllables that only together made up a whole word; Mike might be singing the high notes and his sisters the lower registers.

Such was their intuitive gift that, as Martin Carthy, a Waterson from 1972, when he married Norma, explained to me for the biographical essay accompanying their CD/DVD boxed set, Mighty River of Song (2003), “Sometimes in a Watersons song no one person is singing the melody. The melody’s there, but it spreads itself across the four different people because we have not sung parts.” Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/mike-waterson-singer-and-songwriter-with-the-watersons-luminaries-of-the-english-folk-scene-2301867.html

Waterson:Carthy are the ‘first family’ of British folk music. In the 1960s Norma Waterson was a founding member of ground-breaking English a cappella group The Watersons. At the same time, her husband-to-be Martin Carthy was pioneering the use of guitar to accompany English traditional song. The couple married in 1972. In the 1990s their daughter Eliza Carthy emerged as one the most significant new traditional fiddlers, singers and song writers of her generation. In The Pure Drop, the three perform with acclaimed young melodeon player Tim van Eyken.

Born into a musical family, vocalist Norma Waterson’s first group was a jazz and skiffle band she formed with her siblings and cousin, The Mariners. As the music began to focus more on traditional songs from East Yorkshire they morphed into The Watersons. When the band split in 1968, Norma left England to work as a DJ at a radio station in Montserrat in the West Indies. The family came together again four years later and eventually included Martin Carthy. Norma was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 2003.

Martin Carthy is one of Britain’s most well-loved guitar players whose style is marked by the use of alternate tunings and a strongly percussive picking style that emphasises the melody. Read More:http://thepuredrop.com.au/artists/watercart.htm

Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2011/jun/22/mike-waterson-remembered

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