The Tumbler was John Martyn’s second album released on Island Records in 1968. The album shows a progression from his previous solo folk offering to a more expansive sound including significant contributions from jazz flautist Harold McNair.
The duo’s new collection is shot through with a deep longing for home
Two years ago their Grammy-nominated album There Is No Other laid the ground for an intensely productive partnership. Now, Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi have released an album that somehow manages to distil the essence of what many are experiencing in this pandemic: a longing for home and a grappling with death on a scale and in ways living generations hadn’t imagined before 2020.
The American-Italian duo, both long resident in Ireland, give voice to their longing for home, drawing from the American bluegrass and folk canon, Italian opera and folk traditions, English folk and a sheaf of original songs and tunes. Few artists have processed the challenges of pandemic living with such pin-prick precision and raw emotion. This is an album that interrogates our notions of home in this particular time – its emotional lure, its geographical inaccessibility and, unsurprisingly, its ultimate meaning: death.
Giddens and Turrisi don’t shirk the discomfort and disquiet of these times. This remarkably cohesive album of 12 wildly disparate tracks cuts to the heart of what isolation and distance might mean. They draw on the bluegrass tradition for their opening title song, written by Alice Gerrard, and end the collection with a powerfully wordless reading of Amazing Grace, Turrisi’s frame drum and Giddens’s lilting, nay, crying of the melody more lonesome than any lyric. In between the pair draw on the spare contributions of Niwel Tsumbu on guitar and Emer Mayock on pipes and flute, to exquisite effect. Mayock’s pipes on Amazing Grace are lonesomeness personified.
Their cover of Pentangle’s When I Was in My Prime strikes a beautifully spare pose, baroque in tone. Giddens’s pacing is
Hal-An-Tow is a processional song traditionally sung to usher in the summer. And so we encounter, in the lead solo… two of the most distinctive voices in English music; the unarguably great husky-grey voice of Norma and the undeniably arguably great voice of Mike! I won’t say that ‘you either love it or hate it’ because, trust me, if you’re listening to the voice of Mike Waterson for the first time and finding it mannered, even ridiculous, there’s a very good chance that, in the fullness of time, you too will come to acknowledge Mike as every bit as great a singer as his sisters. An acquired taste, if ever there was one.
From Glasgow Madrigirls summer concert ‘In the Greenwood’. Performed at St John’s Church in Keswick on Saturday 22 June 2013. Filmed by Harry Campbell. Conducted by Katy Lavinia Cooper
Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumble-o,
We were up long before the day-o,
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-o –
For summer is a-coming,
And the winter’s gone away-o!
Since man was first created
His works have been debated
And we have celebrated
The coming of the spring
Take no scorn to wear the horns,
It was the crest when you were born;
Your father’s father wore it,
And your father wore it too.
Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair-o,
And we shall to the merry green wood,
To hunt the buck and hare-o!
What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast, oh?
They shall eat the feathered goose,
And we shall eat the roast, oh!
And as for that good knight, St. George
St. George he was a knight o
Of all the knights of Christendom
St. George is the right o
God bless Aunt Mary Moses
With all her power and might-o;
Send us peace in England,
Send us peace by day and night-o!
This documentary focuses on Eliza Carthy, a singer-songwriter who is bringing traditional music to a new audience. She is the daughter of legendary folk musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. Her father was awarded an MBE for services to folk music in 1998, which actually seems quite a niggardly gesture when one considers how important a figure he actually is. He was inspirational to such musicians as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and to later musicians such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Albion Country Band (the last two bands that included him as a member for a time).by Gonzo Music TV