Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

There’s Always A Story: Martin Carthy’s Favourite Music

Martin Carthy speaks to Patrick Clarke about his 13 favourite records, his love for the new wave of traditional musicians, encounters with Bob Dylan and The Beatles and more

Photo by Jon Wilks

Speaking to Martin Carthy about his favourite 13 records is a delight. Having “had his head in his collection all day,” as his daughter Eliza who helped facilitate the interview describes it to tQ, he speaks about music with a giddy enthusiasm that betrays his 82 years. Though he’s one of the most influential and important figures in the history of British traditional music, there’s such a sense of wonderment to his tone – as well as a gleeful propensity for expletives – when he talks about other musicians that he might easily be mistaken simply for a fan.

He speaks this way about his forerunners in earlier folk movements, teenage inspirations like Lonnie Donegan, contemporaries like Bob Dylan, less direct inspirations from jazz, pop and soul music, and most pleasingly of all about the latest breed of young folk musicians. Recently, he says, was thrilled by a performance by London newcomers Goblin Band, whose approach to traditional music is markedly left field. “They move stuff around,” he beams. “They go back to versions that we were too snotty to touch and they turn them into stomps. They did one of the songs that I consider to be one of ‘my’ songs, ‘Willie’s Lady’, and I thought it was fucking brilliant. I was knocked out.”

Heartening though it is, it’s an outlook that for Carthy requires constant vigilance. His knee jerk reaction to Goblin Band’s approach was one of dismissal, “but then I just said to myself, fucking stop it! You’re always droning on about how people should run with an idea and they’re running with one of yours. They’ve changed it and it’s bloody good! I even thought of copying it myself.”

For now, however, it’s the past that’s Carthy’s chief concern, as he continues a tour with Jon Wilks, the musician, journalist and editor of the website, that blends tales from his storied life and career with musical interludes. “It’s huge fun, because Jon is both a very good musician and a very good guitar player, but he also has the mindset of a journalist, so he’s good at keeping control of where we go and what we talk about,” says Carthy, who’s also enjoying touring again. “In the last few years, the problem was that nobody would book me! I’d warm up like mad, practice like mad, play a show, but then have to wait another three weeks for a gig! With this tour with Jon, I feel like I’ve started to actually get a voice back, which is really, really gratifying.

“I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be around,” he continues, “but if I can keep singing I might even get to 100. I’ve been excited by music for 63 years or something, and it never gets boring. It’s music, for Christ’s sake! You’re always going to find something you’ve been singing forever that’s going to jump up behind you and bite you on the bum and make you think ‘How come I missed that?’ You weren’t old enough, that’s why. There’s always a fabulous story, and a hidden corner somewhere.”

Martin Carthy’s tour with Jon Wilks, ‘Remember Me To One Who Lives There’, continues until December 12. For tickets and more information, click here.

To begin reading Carthy’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of him below.

First Record

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