12 Jun 2018

Anchor by Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy

From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 12 June 2018

Nick Bollinger celebrates the return of 78-year-old Yorkshire folk treasure Norma Waterson.

Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson

Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson Photo: Elly Lucas

Norma Waterson is one of the great voices of English song. From her recordings in the early 60s with family band The Watersons, the Yorkshire-born singer has long represented a paradigm of authenticity – which doesn’t mean she can’t bring the same integrity to a Tom Waits tune that she gives to an old English folk song.


Anchor Photo: supplied

Anchor is the first new recording from the 78-year old Waterson in almost a decade – and it’s wonderful. Until a few years ago she performed regularly as with her husband Martin and daughter Eliza as Waterson-Carthy, but has been largely retired since a serious illness in 2010. So this new album – billed as Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy, but also featuring strong contributions from Martin – marks a welcome return. Her voice is weathered yet seems to have wings; her way with a song is undiminished. Nick Lowe’s ‘The Beast In Me’ – originally written for Johnny Cash - might be one of the best songs on the subject of human duality and Norma Waterson gives it a sublime reading.

It’s not always easy to tell the modern from the traditional. ‘The Shanty of the Whale’ – a mother and daughter duet – was actually written in honour of the Watersons by Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall. Others are well on their way to joining the folk canon, notably ‘The Galaxy Song’ (sung by Eliza) from the songbook of Monty Python.