blimey...how old is this thread?
I can't agree that Martin's singing is unfeeling/passionless - I feel he subtly emotes the stories he sings - it's not showy singing, but it is deeply controlled. Personally, I think he'll be remembered as a singer long after people have forgotten about his remarkable guitar playing.
No one has mentioned the new album with Swarb "Straws in the wind" - Reworkings of stuff from the Penguin book, and to my mind, one of the best yet. "The Ship in Distress" is remarkable - a great song anyway, but such a brooding, ominous arrangement.
I spent a very long time looking for a guitar that sounds like Martin's 000-18 on the recording of "Byker Hill" (the live one with Swarb in that guitar shop in the states) - Finally found an old 0-18 that's seen a bit of life and it's pretty close (although I have had to spend a long time re-learning how to play with a thumb pick), so I guess that particular track probably cost me more money that any of his other recordings. (Don't ask about my collection of Patrick Bouffard CDs)
Was his earlier work better? hard to say - I've been following him for years now, since seeing him at the impressionable age of 16 in 1992 - half a lifetime ago, in fact. He's always struck me as being a considerable nose ahead of anyone else in the field of guitar accompanied English folk song (with the possible exception of Nic Jones), and to my ear is a far more musical performer than say, Martin Simpson (arguably a superior guitarist). I have found him to be a constant inspiration - every time I try to figure something out, he's already done it first...
for example - I wanted to find a way to play diatonic melodeon tunes on guitar...so, I tuned the top and middle pairs of strings a major second apart (1 string each for push notes and pull notes) with the bottom pair tuned to bass notes..result DADEAB... oh look - Carthy has been playing in CGCDGA for years - the same intervals but a tone lower.
There is SO much in that man's playing. How on earth do you pick a favourite?