Review of Martin Carthy’s Second Album

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CD Review

Well, I must confess this isn’t so much a CD review as an LP review (anybody remember LPs?). It was released way back in 1966 and I have an original copy but it has been reissued on CD if you’re interested. The record in question is ‘Martin Carthy’s Second Album’. Not surprisingly, it followed Martin’s first album which was called ‘Martin Carthy’ and that was very good too, but it was this ‘Second Album’ which really knocked me bandy.

Martin is joined on several tracks by fiddler Dave Swarbrick who was then just coming to the fore. The combination of Martin’s  highly original guitar work and Dave’s virtuosity on fiddle (and occasionally on mandolin) was breathtaking. I felt that here at last we had a duo who could match anything the top American artists could do. I was, at the time involved in running a hugely popular folk club at Imperial College, London and we had hosted many great American guests; Peggy Seegar, Mike Seegar, Bill Clifton, Rambling Jack Elliot, Tom Paxton etc. Now we felt we had British artists of the same calibre and we quickly booked them to appear at the club and a memorable night it was too.

The choice of songs is terrific, every one a gem. They’re all English traditional and all sung with great conviction by Martin. It’s difficult to name standout tracks because they’re all so good but I’ll mention Martin’s famous version of ‘Lord Franklin’ (which Bob Dylan pinched from him and rewrote into ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’) and a superbly dramatic performance of the murder ballad ‘Bruton Town’.

For me, as a guitarist, the most significant track was the last one on the album, ‘A Sailor’s Life’. Martin was experimenting at this time with alternative tunings and for this song had tuned his guitar to the now famous DADGAD (a tuning he had learned from another great folk guitarist of the day, Davy Graham).  I loved this sound but try as I might I couldn’t reproduce it. Then someone (actually I think it was Hadyn Smith) told me about DADGAD and as soon as I retuned everything fell into place and a whole Universe of possibilities for guitar accompaniment opened up.

This is still one of my all time favourite albums and I still enjoy listening to it. Martin has done lots of good stuff since but this album will always hold pride of place for me.

Brian Bull

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2 Responses to “Review of Martin Carthy’s Second Album”

  1. Lord Blythin of Gallt Melyd Says:

    i also have the L.P. with his signature on the sleeve. It’s an excellent record of his early work.

    • Lord Blythin of Gallt Melyd Says:

      I lied it’s his first one i have his signature on. Damn damn damn. Hey ho perhaps he’ll sign Brian’s when we get him at Rhyl Folk Club again * (this should be an icon for fingers crossed)

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