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Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, St George’s Sep 17

September 20, 2009

Always good to hear players whose musical understanding comes from decades of working together, and added piquancy here from Swarbrick’s rejuvenation (literally) after a lung transplant. He is his ever-mercurial self again, and the violin tone as clean and strong as ever.

They offer the kind of programme they might have played any time since the mid-1960s, starting with Solvay even – all traditional songs and old tunes. Normally a little of this goes a long way but when it is done this well I could listen all day. Carthy’s voice is more compelling live than on record, and his guitar playing unfailingly tight, though his intros while tuning up do go on a heck of a long time. But Swarbrick is the real star. Together they have a rhythmic ease often hard to get to in folk (to these jazzy ears). And while he mostly embellishes rather than improvises, a lengthy violin excursion on the closing Byker Hill is absorbing and exhilarating. A masterly Swarbrick solo rendition of a trio of tunes was also a highlight, for all the decent-sized crowd judging by the reaction.

And catching one old master did not even mean missing Don Weller down at the Future Inns Chop House as I gather he didn’t make it and Iain Ballamy played instead. That would have been good, of course, but hoping Weller is well enough to come to Bristol soon…

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