Martin Carthy is one of the greatest artists of contemporary British music. He is regarded as one of the finest singers and interpreters of traditional music of the British Isles, as well as a highly influential, innovative and significantly emulated guitar player.
Like many others in the 1950s, Martin was immensely affected by listening to Lonnie Donegan sing “The Rock Island Line.” He started to sneak away with his father’s guitar disguised as a trombone, which he was then studying.
Martin became drawn towards the traditional music of the British Isles, especially acts like Big Bill Broonzy and Elizabeth Cotten. By the early 1960s he was resident at The Troubadour Folk Club in Earl’s Court, London, where his playing and highly emotional singing had a important effect on all types of musicians, including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, who adopted Martin’s arrangement of “Scarborough Fair,” intact.
In 1966 Martin started to work with fiddle player Dave Swarbrick in a pioneering musical partnership. On a total of five albums, including Byker Hill (1967) and Prince Heathen (1968), the duo redefined the relationship between fiddle and guitar in a previously ignored corner of this repertoire.
Martin’s work took other turns when he joined seminal folk bands Steeleye Span in 1970 and the Albion Country Band in 1973. Shortly after the the Albion Country Band disbanded he became a permanent member of the influential group The Watersons, with his wife Norma Waterson and her brother and sister, Mike and Lal.
The start of the 1980s saw him return to a group setting with the formation of the characteristically English folk band, Brass Monkey, featuring a trumpet section. Due to busy schedules, they stopped playing as a band in 1987, but regrouped in early 1995 for a brief tour and again in 1998 to record the celebratory Sound and Rumour.
In the early 1990s Martin renewed his partnership with Dave Swarbrick, producing two more outstanding albums: Life and Limb and Skin and Bone. By then Martin was working alongside his wife and daughter, Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy as Waterson Carthy. Waterson:Carthy (1994) and Common Tongue were both released to critical acclaim, both capturing the exceptional musical understanding that lies between members of this remarkable family.
Martin Carthy was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to English folk music.
Martin Carthy (Fontana STL 5269, 1965) with Dave Swarbrick
Second Album (Fontana STL 5362, 1966) with Dave Swarbrick
Byker Hill (Fontana STL 5434, 1967) with Dave Swarbrick
But Two Came By (Fontana STL 5477, 1968) with Dave Swarbrick
Prince Heathen (Fontana STL 5529, 1969) with Dave Swarbrick
Landfall (Philips 6308 049, 1971)
Please to See the King, with Steeleye Span (B&C CAS 1029, 1971)
Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again, with Steeleye Span (Pegasus PEG 9, 1971)
Shearwater (Pegasus PEG 12, 1972. Reissued in 2005 with three extra tracks)
Sweet Wivelsfield (Deram SML 1111, 1974)
Crown of Horn (Topic 12TS300, 1976)
Storm Force Ten, with Steeleye Span (Chrysalis CHR 1151, 1977)
Live at Last, with Steeleye Span (Chrysalis CHR 1199, 1978)
Because It’s There (Topic 12TS389, 1979)
Out of the Cut (Topic 12TS426, 1982)
Right of Passage (Topic 12TS452, 1988)
Life and Limb (Special Delivery SPDCD 1030, 1990) with Dave Swarbrick
Skin and Bone (Special Delivery SPCD 1046, 1992) with Dave Swarbrick
The Kershaw Sessions (1994)
Signs of Life (Topic TSCD503, 1998)
The Journey (Live at The Forum, London, 1995), with Steeleye Span (Park Records PRKCD 52, 1999)
Waiting for Angels (Topic TSCD527, 2004)
Martin Carthy at Ruskin Mill (2005)
Straws in the Wind (Topic TSCD556, 2006) with Dave Swarbrick
Walnut Creek: Live Recordings, 1989 – 1996 (Fellside FECD243, 2011)