Norma Waterson

The Definitive Collection

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Calling this set the definitive collection of British singer Norma Waterson's fine career might be overstating things a bit, but it does make a nice introduction to her various projects, since it includes samples of her work with the Watersons (alongside brother Mike Waterson and sister Lal Waterson), Waterson:Carthy (with husband Martin Carthy and daughter Eliza Carthy), as well as tracks from her two impressive solo albums, 1996's Norma Waterson and 2000's Bright Shiny Morning. Long recognized as one of England's best traditional ballad singers, Waterson's voice brings a subtle and wearied worldliness to everything she touches, and she makes the old songs like "The Outlandish Knight" and the stark "Sheep Crook and Black Dog" live fully restored in the modern world, while conversely making modern songs like Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's "Black Muddy River" sound as ancient as any child ballad, and in the most striking track here, she reconfigures Tin Pan Alley songwriter Fred Fisher's "Ain't No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears" into a powerfully contemporary statement on love, need, and respect. It's a blessing to have such a voice singing the old love songs (and some of the new ones, too), even if they don't always have happy endings.

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