Martin Carthy

Byker Hill

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Byker Hill was the first album on which Carthy and Swarbrick had more than two or three hours' studio time, and, as a result, which was actually rehearsed and programmed weeks in advance. The results are less spontaneous than their earlier work, but also show a level of professionalism that few folk albums of the era ever demonstrated. The differences lie in the careful nuances, and the sophistication of the paired voice and instruments, which are much more studied than anything previously heard. The music is glorious in its own unassuming way--Carthy's acapella performance on the haunting "Brigg Fair" (a Lincolnshire tune originally collected by Percy Grainger, and which was the basis for a classical piece by Frederick Delius), the interweaving of Carthy's voice and Swarbrick's violin on "The Bloody Gardener," the dazzling title track, and maybe the best version of "John Barleycorn" ever recorded, are among 14 of the most prized songs in their careers.

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