Martin Carthy – Kings Place

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There was no-one videoing on the night, so here’s Martin and Eliza Carthy playing “Died For Love” at the Albert Hall last month for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (where Martin was given a lifetime achievement award).

Why this gig?

I’ve been going to see Martin Carthy play for as long as I can remember. But although I’ve seen him play many times in the last three or four years, it has always been with other people. I can’t remember the last time I saw him play solo. So when I saw this gig advertised at Kings Place (one of my favourite venues) there was no question that I would buy a ticket.


No support tonight. Carthy played two fifty minute sets.


In a just world, Martin Carthy would be a huge star. In the early 60s he was trading songs with people like Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. For fifty years he has been at the heart of the revival of traditional English folk music. It’s therefore astonishing that for £12.50 you can buy a ticket to see him at one of London’s smallest (but nicest) venues. It’s lucky too, because Carthy’s style works best in intimate venues like this.

It’s just Carthy playing on his own. He carries two guitars onto the stage and swaps between them infrequently. There are no roadies retuning after each song, Carthy prefers to do that himself. But you won’t see many people who can transfix a room with just voice and guitar in the way that Carthy can.

With a huge repertoire to choose from, you can never be sure what Carthy is going to play. I’m not sure that he really knows until he starts playing. He comments that he has been thinking about songs that he hasn’t played for a while, so tonight’s set contains more than a few songs that are getting their first airing for a few years. Songs that particularly stand out for me includee “Lochmaben Harper”, “My Son John” (a modern reinterpretation of a song from the Napoleonic Wars about a son coming home from war with no legs – some things never change) and the old fan favourite “Famous Flower of Serving Men”.

Carthy introduces each song with a little story. He comes across as a really nice chap. You just know that he’d be a great person to sit and talk to. This is at his most obvious when he comes back for the inevitable encore and asks if anyone would like to hear anything in particular. Someone asks for an obscure instrumental from an early album and (after a brief conversation to work out exactly which tune he means) Carthy remembers it and plays it completely unrehearsed.

If you have any interest in folk music then you’ll need no encouragement to see Martin Carthy play live. If you think that you don’t really like folk music, then why not give Martin Carthy a chance to change your mind.

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