Oliver Knight / Lal Waterson

Once in a Blue Moon

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

While little flashes of Lal Waterson's songwriting prowess had been revealed over the years, this debut showed just how advanced her talent was. To be fair, much of the credit goes to writing partner/son/guitarist Oliver Knight, whose six-string backdrops create the moods, from giddily exuberant ("Stumbling On") to enigmatically scary ("Phoebe"). As a pair, they seem to understand each other perfectly, one talent complementing the other. The songs themselves aren't easy beasts by any means, either. Those who want background listening don't need to be here; Waterson's lyrics alone demand attention to decipher at times. But she can take something simple, like "Altisidora," about a child's painting, and make it into a microcosm of life. Inevitably, the influence of her past in traditional music creeps in, especially on the closing "Some Old Salty," an a cappella piece where a chorus of voices comes across almost as English gospel. The record's stripped down, but then it doesn't need more than voices, two or three layers of Knight's guitar, and occasional reed contributions from Jo Freya. More would be overkill and would take away from the main attractions, which are the gemlike songs themselves and Waterson's performance of them, her voice always tender but seemingly offhand, as if singing them was just a part of life. Which it was. And anything that can get her brother-in-law, Martin Carthy, to sit in for a few minutes not on his usual acoustic but instead on electric guitar -- as he does on "How Can I Leave" -- offers an extra joy.

blue highlight denotes track pick