First time I saw Martin Carthy sing in public was in a coffee bar (or was it a pub? In Hampstead anyway.) He's been booked as the guitarist entertainer, and was singing Battleship of Maine to about three people. I never hear that without thinking of him.
Martin's musical ability are only part of what makes him importance. He has influenced the way we think about the music, in the same way Pete Seegar has, and in the same direction. Mudcat thinking, I hope:
"The real importance of folk music is that it demonstrates how clever people can be. If you listen to folk music from around the world, you are listening to a distillation over thousands of years of people who, from nothing have arrived at some quite astonishing conclusions, and these make up an important part of a society's culture.
Folk music is not blind, it's not noble savage stuff, it's actually people thinking deeply and emotionally, and being able to articulate what they feel in music and dance.
Now that I have actually realised it, I am more and more in awe every single day at how smart people can be.
Saying that it is boring rubbish and finger in the ear stuff is wilful ignorance, and is an insult to the ingenuity and creativity of those ordinary people. That's how important it is."
(From Martin's introduction to "Martin Carthy - a guitar in folk music", published by New Punchbowl Music, a collection of 28 songs and tunes.