Oliver Knight & Marry Waterson

Today sees the release of a highly recommended album by Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight entitled The Days That Shaped Me on One Little Indian Records. My review for Whisperin’ & Hollerin’ tells you why it’s so great.

It marks another chapter in the remarkable family saga of the Waterson-Carthy dynasty. Marry & Oliver are the offspring of Elaine (Lal) Waterson who tragically passed away in 1998 just ten days after being diagnosed with cancer.

Lal is less well known than her sister Norma but is fondly remembered by the folk community, past and present, as a unique and idiosyncratic talent.

In 1972 she made an album called Bright Phoebus with brother Mike which Rob Young, writing in Electric Eden, describes as being “as unpredictable as the English weather”.  As with the albums as part of The Watersons, there are songs to please traditionalists yet there’s never the sense of blindly reproducing tired old standards. Instead, the tunes are injected with a modern sensibility.  Winifer Odd, for instance tells the tale of a woman hit by a car while picking up a lucky star in the road; hardly the typical topic of a folk song.

Lal Waterson

Another example of Lal’s unconventional, and spontaneous, approach to song writing is the brilliant Letter to Joe Haines recorded by Norma Waterson’s for her second solo album The Very Thought Of You (1999) written as a reply to the heinous article published in the Daily Mirror days after Freddie Mercury’s death which criticised the singer’s promiscuous lifestyle and essentially blamed him for being a victim of AIDs.

One verse of Lal Waterson’s song goes:
Read your letter, tore the page
Wondered whether to write in rage
Then I thought it better to use your trade
No-one should ever die of AIDS

It is natural to draw comparisons between mother and daughter but, given that it is 12 years since Lal’s death, it is also only proper that we judge Marry’s songs on their own merits. Thankfully, this does not prove difficult as the one thing they both share is a defiant individuality.

However you choose to rate the album, the collaboration with her brother is a triumph-  great songs, pure and simple and best listened to without any preconceptions.

[Download link to the Bright Phoebus album on the Ghost Capital blogspot]

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