Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight, Royal Oak, Station Street, Lewes, Sussex, 5 May 2011

16. 5. 2011 | Rubriky: Articles,Live reviews

[by Ken Hunt, London] The Royal Oak is home to one of the finest folk clubs in the south of England. It epitomises so much about the English folk club set-up. It takes place on Thursdays while not far away the Elephant & Castle at White Hill in Lewes hosts the weekend Lewes Saturday Folk Club. The Royal Oak’s guests regularly include the cream of established of artists. Between March and May 2011 bills featured Tom Paley, Martin Carthy & Chris Parkinson, Jez Lowe and Tim Laycock as the main guests. Yet it is one of those clubs, like Sheila Miller’s Cellar Upstairs folk club in Camden in north London, that balances established and new acts so well. This night the honours fell to Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight.

Interestingly, this sister and brother duo’s newly released debut The Days That Shaped Me formed only part of their live repertoire, though its songs were like the string running through a necklace. Their opening gambit had Marry Waterson – “one of the unbeatable Waterson Family voices,” announced Vic Smith, the club’s master of ceremonies – sing their mother, Lal Waterson’s Fine Horseman from Lal and Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus (1972). It is a cryptic song etched into many people’s memories, maybe from Anne Briggs’ early purloining of the unfinished song for her The Time Has Come (1971) or interpretations by the Silly Sisters and Dick Gaughan through to King Creosote and The Owl Service. Tellingly, Marry’s languid rendition just told a story written in her mother’s hand the way her mother would have told it. She did the same with Flight of the Pelican from Once In A Blue Moon (1996) – Lal and Oliver Knight’s first joint venture on disc. It was once an anti-Thatcher song with heraldic imagery implicit. In 2011 its relevance is less Thatcher’s regime than its gnawing aftermath, summed up in the closing lines, “We who dreamed young and were silent this autumn/Your children’s children’s rights have gone.” If you vote silence in, you bequeath blame.

The second song of the first set, and the first from The Days That Shaped Me, is a hymn to female hormonal fluctuations, Curse The Day. It was followed by a run on that album’s bank with Windy Day, The Gap (always good to have a Doris Day name-check), Another Time (“an early one”) and Revoiced. Revoiced came across as the most Lal-like of the batch. Unlike the album (and later engagements on the tour), its arrangement was a stripped bare approach. No Kathryn Williams harmonies, just the basic unit of Marry’s vocal and Oliver’s guitar. It felt like it might have if they’d been singing in a car or rehearsing round the kitchen table. Marry’s unaccompanied Welcome Sailor from the Watersons’ For Pence and Spicy Ale (1975) was actually introduced as “a song learnt around the kitchen table”. The first set concluded with Memories, the song that gave title to Lal Waterson & Oliver Knight’s Bed of Roses, released the year after Lal’s death in September 1998.

The second set took other routes. Two in, Oliver did solo guitar piece combining a little brick from the Pink Floyd’s The Wall and his own Train To Bay – the title clips the definite article Yorkshire-fashion – again from Bed of Roses. The last London-bound train curtailed the experience but the inclusion of three new songs was highly promising. The first, the opener is summed up in the title. Love Song To A Lyric is Marry’s declaration of the besotting strength of writing. I Won’t Hear proved more oblique on first hearing but seemed to be about shutting out and shutting in voices figuratively or literally. (Of course, I have been wrong many times before.) Rosie, one of the ones that melds lyrics from Marry and Lal, had one of those trademark family lines – “Rosie had a tea cosy” – running into crochet. Ah, their mother’s spirit lives on…

Further listening

The Days That Shaped Me (One Little Indian Records TPLP1087CD, 2011)

Small print

The images, apart from the artwork for The Days That Shaped Me, are © Ken Hunt/Swing 51 Archives.

Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight’s website is at

For more about Folk at the Royal Oak, go to and

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