Norma Waterson Talk

Waterson Carthy: Photocredit Neil KingNORMA WATERSON, FIRST LADY OF ENGLISH FOLK TAKES A TRIP DOWN AN OLD FASHIONED YORKSHIRE MEMORY LANE OR TWO...

#N=Norma Waterson #F=Flynn

#F Norma, your music has very much a Northern feel to it. Music that more than anything else identifies with the area's uncomplicated way of thinking. It's simple values, and how people really lived.

#N Yes, originally when I sang with my family most of the were songs of East Yorkshire. From the north. We songs from the north east. We live in the north east, it's only natural that's where we do stuff from. We didn't do it tonight, but we do a set of tunes from 1735 by a N.East painter. So, yes we do.

#F It's very important that these old songs are kept alive?

#N Absolutely, it's traditions. Where as people in other countries are proud of their traditions in Scotland, Ireland, Africa and the likes, somehow here in England we get left behind, she states. And, I think that England has as good a tradition as anywhere else, and I think that we should keep it alive.

#F That's good to hear. The different dialects alone are worth their weight in gold.

#N Absolutely. Most countries, and areas have their dialects.

#F Old words or sayings can't be allowed to be lost, either.

#N Right!

#F Norma what was it that prompted you to go solo. Did your daughter, Eliza's coming on solo give you a renewed appetite?

Norma Waterson: Photocredit Karl Greenow#N No, I really started it because., I'd always sang with my family before. But, my sister Lal decided that she didn't want to perform anymore. Not sing anymore, but tour anymore. So that, it opened the door for other avenues. It's gone very well, Hannibal has a great tradition too.

#F Your debut album of 1996, 'Norma Waterson' saw you go within a whisker of gaining the Mercury Music Award.

#N Yes, that was very lucky indeed. I was one vote away from getting that award. Which is very nice.

#F Your were up against some pretty big names too.

#N Yeh, Oasis, Blur and Pulp (who eventually won it)[laughs.]

#F Norma, do you see more and more people disregard barriers dividing music?

#N Well, the media have always tried to pigeon hole music. At one time, folk people had a real hard time trying to explain what it was. Record companies, shops and media always wanted to pigeon hole it. I think people now view it more as world music.

#F Mentioning world music, some of the songs that you cover are, if you like borrowed from other areas in music. Which is both a brave, and good thing. And, sing them well. I enjoy the way that your singing is economical, no surplus frills. Something that goes back to the music's tradition. Making it's way in a straight line to the heart.

#N Yes, absolutely.

#F What is it in a song that attracts you most when you're looking for material to cover. Do you see yourself singing the song in a different way, or is it the lyrics that attracts you mainly?

#N It's just the story. If the story appeals to me, then I'll sing the song. It's like when you're a child, and you're told stories. [smiles.]

#F So, it's the lyric that attracts you.

#N Yes, but there's nice melodies. Yet, if the lyrics are stupid, then the melody can be as beautiful as anything it's not worth singing.

#F Tonight on stage you had an occasion where Martin borrows a melody to go with a song , that worked perfectly.

#N Yes, he did, [she says excitedly] The song is English, but the melody is borrowed from the Basque Country. Simply because he liked that tune, and that it fitted the words of an old English song ('The Wife Of Usher's Well'). He thought it fitted it so well. He saw no problem in that, and I didn't either.