...and Martin Carthy! And Simon Emmerson! And I have also been complimented on my coat by none other than Eliza Carthy! I am high as a kite...as the excessive use of exclamation marks may well betray!
I have just returned home from a truly magical evening; and evening spent in the company of The Imagined Village. As per my previous post at the time I booked my ticket, I have to admit that, somehow, this project had previously slipped under my radar. Yes, I knew Eliza Carthy (although not personally!), yes I knew Martin Carthy and, yes, of course I knew Billy Bragg...and Benjamin Zephaniah and Afro Celt Sound System. But together, all on one stage (with the exception of Zephaniah - with us via the medium of film), all at the same time? You're kidding me, right? I was more than a little excited at the prospect of this!
And I really wasn't disappointed (so much so that, rather than my usual agonising over posting, my drafts and edits etc., I had to type it all up straight away, sod the imperfections!). My seat was excellent...practically on the stage, so that was a good start. It was an evening of energy, love of music and heritage and, in the greatest of folk traditions, communion. This supergroup was like some almost unimaginable (except, perhaps, in the Waterson-Carthy household!) get-together of family and friends for a good old sing-song around the piano...well, except for the fact that there was no piano!
...The piano being just about the only instrument not present, however - we had fiddle (naturally), guitar, drums, bass, sitar, cello...and I'm sure others too that I have neglected to mention, or that I couldn't even name! I was completely and utterly captivated throughout...and that is really saying something of me and my ludicrously short attention span!
The premise is to take a modern view of traditional folk music...updating it for today, for a multicultural society, and incorporating non-traditional elements from other musical realms...and what better hands to entrust this to? Billy Bragg was very dapper indeed, bedecked as he was in a moleskin suit festooned with pearlized buttons along every seam (in recognition of his, as he put it, "vernacular garb" - a tribute to the forerunners of London's pearly kings and queens). Carthy Junior was, as expected, stunningly good (her fiddle-playing really is magnificent, and her presence here couldn't be more fitting - she is the riot grrrl of folk, steeped in folk music as a way of life, totally respectful to it, yet a modern young woman who appeared on early CD covers with facial piercings and brightly-dyed hair) and, pleasingly, danced and strutted about the stage like a woman possessed by the sounds of the evening...this music is her blood.
Speaking of which, the proud looks from her dad (and let's not forget that her dad is none other than Martin Carthy!) kept sending her way were touching and human. He has a lot to be proud of...and she a lot to be grateful for.
So far I have only mentioned those musicians with whom I had previously made some personal acquaintance (at home with a CD - they knew nothing of this connection!), but each and every member of this troupe was exceptionally talented...the playing, and singing, was flawless. And, therefore, credit also needs to be given to Sheila Chandra (whose solo work I shall be having a look into - and who is absolutely beautiful), Andy Gangadeen on drums, Francis Hylton on bass (he so doesn't look like a 'Francis' - another almost unnaturally good-looking individual), Johnny Kalsi on percussion, Barney Morse Brown on cello, and Sheema Mukherjee (of Transglobal Underground) on sitar. And I haven't even got around to mentioning Chris Wood yet, who provided vocals and a second fiddle (ha ha!)...and the warm-up act (I cried like a fool at the song about his daughter).
And these are just those contributors who were actually on stage this evening...Paul Weller is on the CD!
If you get the chance to see this esteemed group of musicians, I urge you to do so. This was an evening that left me truly twinkly-eyed and open-mouthed. It was like going to the theatre...as much about the performance, the 'players', the coming together, the being witness to this evening as it was about the music itself. Which was outstanding.
Afterwards I bought myself a CD and took my place in line to get it signed. Knowing that Billy Bragg was just up ahead was terrifying! I get so nervous and star-struck that I find myself tongue-tied and blether nonsense, so I had decided the less I said the better. By the time I got to the panel of heroes, I was shaking and could feel myself starting to sweat, so I was as swift as possible (although I'm sure I still managed to come across as an idiot!), but just to have met them has left me giddy as a kipper. I have a signed CD and tour programme (I didn't even have to ask for the latter to be signed...Ms Carthy offered! And then shoved it under the nose of Mr Bragg. Her life must be amazing, the musicians she gets to meet, work with and know! Hell, she is the progeny of Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy! Lucky, then, that she is also brilliant at this whole folk music shebang!), a big grin on my face, and a spring in my step.
Oh, and when I got into my car to drive home Walk On the Wild Side was playing on the radio! Superb!
I HAVE SHAKEN THE HAND OF BILLY BRAGG!
Initial standout tracks (from the performance...I have yet to listen to the album): England Half English, which epitomised the very point of The Imagined Village (but which, disappointingly, I have just noticed is not on the album...they were also selling a four track CD, which I neglected to look at amidst the bustle, so I'm guessing it is on that); Tam Lyn Retold (a Benjamin Zephaniah reworking of an old mythological folk tale); and Hard Times of Old England Retold.