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CHRIS WOOD, ROGER WILSON & MARTIN CARTHY
"Wood, Wilson, Carthy"
RUF Records RUFCD05

What have we here? Martin Carthy with a rather tasty backing band? Definitely not. Here we have the much-respected source of huge influence and some of the results of that influence, playing together as equal partners - and it's great. No-one dominates. For those of you who don't know - Roger is a youngish English singer, fiddler and songwriter whose work bears a strong and delightful resemblance to late-period Nic Jones. Chris Wood has played in various combinations (with Andy Cutting, most notably) and is also an English singer, fiddler, guitarist and songsmith whose direct influences are less obvious.

Most of the songs and tunes of this CD are showpieces for the individual members of the "band", accompanied by the other two, although there are ensemble tracks. Proceedings kick off with a bouncy "Six Jovial Welshman" with Martin C. up front, having fun with the daft story. Next up is a gentle and moving song written by Roger for his daughter before she was born - having seen her by "Ultrasound" - the song's title. There's a touch of Thompsonesque gloom about the line "Whatever you do all day to get through your day will be a pig sometimes", but it's a good expression of the combination of hopes and worries that any sensitive incipient Dad feels as the prospect of the new, unknown family member becomes a tangible reality. Nice one, Roger. Chris Wood pitches in with a thought-provoking and compelling Trad/Wood song about the dangers of mental, physical and material baggage on the journey to Heaven - "You Must Unload". This song-swapping continues until each of the trio has had three "showpieces" and there are an extra three group tracks - all very democratic and balanced.

My other highlights include a quirky re-take on "Scarborough Fair" (apparently Wood and Wilson tricked Carthy into this one) with added pizzicato violin, viola and a gentle djembe plonk. It's very effective and unlike others we could name (again), Martin makes a careful note of the song's origins in the sleeve notes! Chris Wood's reading of the classic "Lord Bateman" is a cracker and Roger Wilson makes a nice job of setting an augmented Robert Frost poem as a song.

In summary, then - we have here a collection of songs and tunes from three of England's finest folk musicians, each of whom is a fine solo artist and has played in several bands - all nice chaps and no egos threatening to devour the universe. The trio is not actually greater than the sum of its parts - but it's sufficiently distinctive and musically successful that I hope it will last as an occasional outlet for these gents. They clearly enjoy playing together and the whole thing feels just right.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 30 of The Living Tradition magazine.