Martin and Eliza Carthy

Comment | The Tap and Barrel, Pontefract | Comment and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

The setting for tonight’s musical soirée at the Tap & Barrel included a couple of standard lamps, a mannequin topped with a red bowler, the head of a Highland Cow, complete with headphones dangling from its left horn, a fully lit candelabra and the ever-present Mona Lisa. Tonight was a special treat for local writer and broadcaster Ian Clayton, who invited Martin and Eliza to his town for a special mixture of music and memories, tagged onto the end of the duo’s recent tour. Introducing him as a ‘musician’s musician’, Ian asked Martin, the inspiration for countless guitarists, “but who taught you?” Martin’s reply was both swift and short “me.” The self-taught musician went on to discuss some of the musicians who had influenced him (Davy Graham), and indeed, the people who had been influenced by his repertoire (Bob Dylan, Paul Simon) during an hour-long anecdotal conversation, which could only expect to cover the tip of this titanic folk legend’s iceberg. If dad could clearly recall the heyday of the folk revival in such detail, then daughter Eliza could be relied upon to defend clubbing, techno and unaccompanied ballads as inextricably linked musical forms, and in exasperation, point out that people “just don’t join up the dots” when it comes to the broad canvas of folk music. If the first half of tonight’s get-together was a trip down Memory Lane, then the second half was a showcase of songs, performed by the father and daughter team, including material from the duo’s collaborative album The Moral of the Elephant; “Her Servant Man”, “Happiness” and “Blackwell Merry Night.” Also performed was the song Carthy is probably most famous for, “Scarborough Fair” and a couple of other traditional songs from the distant past, “Died for Love” and “John Barleycorn”, each an example of fine musicianship and guitar/fiddle empathy, with Eliza frequently evoking the spirit of the late Dave Swarbrick, dad’s long time musical partner. Closing with a couple of requests, Eliza performed Stephen Foster’s sublime “Nelly was a Lady”, before dad returned to the spotlight for a reading of “High Germany,” effectively taking the audience right back to the very beginning.