The Watersons

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Late line-up of The Watersons featuring (left to right) Norma, Martin Carthy, Rachel, Mike and Lal Waterson. Live at the Rockingham Arms, Wentworth, South Yorkshire, 16 October 1987. Photograph by Kevin Boyd.

The Watersons were an English folk group from Hull, Yorkshire. They performed mainly traditional songs with little or no accompaniment. Their distinctive sound came from their closely woven harmonies.

Career[edit]

Original members were Norma, Mike, and Lal Waterson, with their cousin John Harrison from Kingston High School. They had a skiffle band in the early 1960s but moved on to playing more traditional material. They were briefly known as "The Folksons".

Their first album was Frost and Fire 1965 (awarded the Melody Maker Album of the Year, a rarity for a debut album) followed by The Watersons and A Yorkshire Garland in 1966. The Watersons split up in 1968, when Norma went to work as a disc jockey on a radio station on Montserrat.

The group reformed in 1972, with John Harrison briefly replaced by Bernie Vickers. In 1972 that the group performed and arranged the music for the Alan Plater TV Play for Today, "The Land of Green Ginger", set and filmed in Hull. The band appeared in a scene filmed in the Bluebell Folk Club.[1]

Vickers was replaced the same year by Norma's husband, Martin Carthy. This line-up recorded For Pence and Spicy Ale (1975), Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy (1977), and Green Fields (1981).

Later line-ups featured Mike Waterson's daughter Rachel Waterson, who briefly replaced Lal during a leave of absence caused by ill health in the mid-1980s, then continued to sing with the group on Lal's return. This five-piece line up performed regularly during the late 1980s and recorded a session for the BBC Andy Kershaw show in August 1986. In 1987, the group collaborated with Swan Arcade to form Blue Murder, who have performed and recorded sporadically with various line-ups to the present day. Subsequent Watersons line-ups fluctuated, featuring Eliza Carthy, Anne Waterson and Maria Gilhooley at various times, but recording only occasionally.

Lal Waterson died in 1998 and, by the early 1990s, Carthy, Norma Waterson and their daughter Eliza Carthy had formed the group Waterson:Carthy. The Watersons gradually ceased to sing live on a regular basis, but the family occasionally reconvened for special events and festival appearances, where they are usually billed as "The Waterson Family". These have included 'A Mighty River of Song' at the Royal Albert Hall on 12 May 2007, the BBC Electric Proms concert, 'Once in a Blue Moon: A Tribute to Lal Waterson', at Cecil Sharp House in London on 25 October 2007 and 'A Tribute to Bert,' a concert celebrating the life and work of Albert Lloyd, at Cecil Sharp House on 15 November 2008. During the summer of 2009, "The Waterson Family" performed at a number of festivals and large concerts throughout England and Ireland.

Mike Waterson died on 22 June 2011, aged 70.[2][3]

Discography[edit]

  • Various Artists: New Voices: An Album of First Recordings by Harry Boardman, Maureen Craik, The Waterson Family (1965)

The five Watersons tracks included on this album later formed part of the Early Days CD (1994)

  • The Watersons: Frost and Fire: A Calendar of Ceremonial Folk Songs (1965)[4]

Reissued on CD with additional tracks from Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy in 1990. Original album reissued on CD with remastered audio in 2007.

  • The Watersons: The Watersons (1966)

All tracks included on this album later formed part of the Early Days CD (1994)

  • The Watersons: A Yorkshire Garland (1966)

Ten of the original fourteen tracks later formed part of the Early Days CD (1994)

  • Various Artists: Bright Phoebus: Songs by Lal & Mike Waterson (1972)

Briefly reissued on CD in 2000

  • The Watersons: For Pence and Spicy Ale (1975)

Reissued on CD with additional tracks from A True Hearted Girl and Mike Waterson in 1993. Original album reissued on CD with remastered audio in 2008.

  • Lal & Norma Waterson with Maria Waterson: A True Hearted Girl (1977)

Reissued on CD in 1999 with additional tracks

  • Mike Waterson: Mike Waterson (1977)

Reissued on CD in 1999 with additional tracks

  • The Watersons: Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy (1977)

Seven of the original fourteen tracks were included on the CD reissue of Frost and Fire in 1990. Original album reissued on CD with remastered audio in 2007.

  • The Watersons: Green Fields (1981)

Reissued on CD with additional tracks from A True Hearted Girl and Mike Waterson in 1998

  • The Watersons: Travelling for a Living (circa 1994)

Belated release of the 1965 BBC documentary on video. Later released on DVD as part of the Mighty River of Song box set (2004)

Tracks from New Voices (1965), The Watersons (1966) and A Yorkshire Garland (1967) plus one previously unreleased track

  • The Watersons: The Definitive Collection (2003)

19-track compilation

  • The Watersons: Mighty River of Song (2004)

86-track, four CD, one DVD box set spanning over 40 years of Watersons and related recordings

  • The Watersons: A Yorkshire Christmas (2005)

The Watersons and friends/guests recorded live in December 1980

References[edit]