Friday, Nov. 26; Focal Point; Saturday, Nov. 27; Tap Room

Of all the great shows Focal Point has presented through the years, none has been better than the times Martin Carthy has visited St. Louis. He's played here at least 20 times, whether as a solo artist, as the partner of Dave Swarbrick, as a member of the vocal quartet the Watersons or as a member of his latest group, the family unit called Waterson:Carthy. This last outfit will grace our town once again, with concerts at two locations this weekend.

Carthy has been one of the most important figures in the last 40 years of the English folk revival. His acoustic-guitar playing is one of the most distinctive and inventive styles ever applied to the instrument. As an accompanist, he plays delightful melodic runs with his fingers while holding down the harmonic roots with his thumb. Yeah, lots of people do that, but Carthy's attack is so percussive that he is essentially playing the role of a drummer as well. He also sings beautifully, with a rich baritone and a delightfully personal phrasing.

Carthy's wife, Norma Waterson, has also been a legend in English folk circles since the early '60s. She was a member of the Watersons, the finest folk vocal group in history. Carthy eventually joined her in that group, which disbanded for good nearly 10 years ago. Norma Waterson started a solo career a couple of years back, releasing a self-titled album on Rykodisc that is easily one of the five best records released in the 1990s. On it, she was backed by Richard Thompson and Carthy, and she sang songs by Elvis Costello and Ben Harper, among others.

Eliza Carthy is the couple's daughter, and in recent years she has become a leading player in the latest round of youthful English folk revivalists. Her fiddling has gotten better and better every year, and her voice is a pure, irresistibly graceful sound.

These three, together with Saul Rose on melodeon, come together as Waterson: Carthy and have just released their third album, Broken Ground, on Topic Records. It is an hour-long document of all the things this band can do so well. Bring plenty of extra cash to these shows, because the group will likely be selling this album, as well as recent new ones from Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, that are virtually impossible to find in stores. Waterson:Carthy

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