Martin Carthy - Shearwater [Talking Elephant - 2017]
From 1972 Shearwater was the seventh album from respected British folk guitarist & singer Martin Carthy- who was a member (twice) of Steeleye Span in the early & late 70’s, as well as a member of The Watersons, & The Albion Band. Here we have a 2017 CD reissue of the album on Uk’s Talking Elephant. And it’s wonderfully urgent-to-haunting folk album, mainly based around a pared-down & stripped backed guitar & vocals- with a few tracks been built purely around Carthy’s powerful sing-song/ folksy chanted vocals.
The album was recorded in 1971, shortly after Carthy left Steeleye Span for the first time, after recording two of the bands classic early 70’s album’s Please To See The King, & Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again. The album offers up ten tracks, and a full play time of spot-on forty minutes. And really it follows on from the sparser & often darker edged tracks on Ten Man Mop- so if like me you loved that album, you’ll enjoy this very, very much.
The album opens with the churning & spiralling acoustic guitar strum- meets chanting & layered vocals of “I Was A Youngman”- which starts things off in a satisfying springy- yet- taut fashion. Later we have the jauntily sparse & haunting vocal only “He Called For a Candle”- with Carthy both forging an urgent melody with just his voice, as well telling a great tight & wordy story- and really a guitar in here would be been out of place. Onto the nearing nine & half minutes of “Famous Flower Of Sewing Men”- with it’s bright, tight, and times crystalline complex acoustic strum & dart, and rich storytelling.
This reissue presents just the albums original ten tracks, and no extras- and normally this would be somewhat disappointing. But I think on this occasion any additions would rather have lessened the often stark, precise and barren beauty & power of these songs & the album at large.
In conclusion, Shearwater is timeless, at times barren, but always rich folk album- which is alive with both focused passion, wordy often bleak tales, and concise musicianship & vocal flair.