North London Polytechnic

Martin Carthy / John Martyn North London Poly.

DEVASTATINGLY PACKED house for two of the major mavericks from the old-time folk scene.

Martin Carthy could be reckoned as a maverick father figure: a hallowed protagonist in the Sixties circuit, he then flew his banner in reverse and went into Steeleye Span. At the Poly, it was back to the solo acoustic however, with Carthy’s often-overlooked ability at ‘tunes’, all thudding underbeat and flighty melody, ripening up a ready audience. He’s also a pastmaster at unaccompanied singing, these days the remotest skill in the world – and encored thus with ‘Brigg Fair’ and ‘Bonny Black Hare’.

John Martyn came from moderately similar roots but over this decade has quietly been culling an audience of a different sort with his various excursions into different, often jazz-like, musical forms. With his recent ‘One World’ album he’s gained a new surge of recognition – and rightly so. Alone on stage with two guitars and a canvas stacking chair, surrounded by boxes, pedals, leads and a thousand mostly empty bottles, you’d never have credited what one man could pull out of all that lot. Pinned down by rhythm loops, Martyn offered his audience gallons of echoplex, clouds of Froese-ish fantasy, bristling guitar statements, crazy dead riffs, rolling, coasting vocals . .

‘Big Muff’, ‘Dealer’ et al were imperative choices, but Martyn wasn’t frightened to step back into a wholly-acoustic mould occasionally.

This was John Martyn’s last UK gig before departing on an European and US tour. It was also a Rock Against Racism benefit, for which ‘One World’ says it all.

Linnet Evans
25 March 1978

North London Polytechnic
13 March 1978