Marry Waterson

Part of a remarkable musical dynasty, Marry Waterson echoes her mother’s surreal, poetic appeal...

Marry Waterson's official bio

Inheriting the legacy of one of British folk’s most revered families, it took a long time for Marry to step centre stage. Although she had made her recording debut on her mother Lal and aunt Norma Waterson’s A True Hearted Girl back in 1977 and later under the name The Waterdaughters formed an occasional singing partnership with them and cousin Eliza Carthy, appearing on numerous Watersons and Waterson/ Carthy recordings to boot – it wasn’t until two crucial shows in 2007 that the idea of making music herself really took hold.

That year Marry and brother Oliver Knight appeared with the Waterson family at a special Royal Albert Hall concert entitled A Mighty River of Song, and again later the same year at the BBC Electric Proms concert Once in a Blue Moon: A Tribute to Lal Waterson in which they both played key roles as performers and curators.

So encouraged, in 2011 came the pair’s hugely acclaimed debut The Days That Shaped Me (“the potential to be a lifelong companion. It’s that good.” 5/5 Independent On Sunday). Nominated for a BBC Folk Award, the record – born out circumstance rather than design, and part homage to mother Lal – was full of beautiful, evocative, mysterious songs that included collaborations with Kathryn Williams, James Yorkston and Eliza.

That album, and it’s 2012 follow-up Hidden (again as Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight) showcased Marry’s highly original and distinctly English performance style, style that owes much to the folk tradition, without being beholden to it.

So when Oliver elected to take a break from music last year, Marry suddenly found herself without a musical foil (“I don’t play an instrument, my tunes are sung into existence” she explains) and was therefore intrigued when David A. Jaycock – a mutual friend and collaborator of James Yorkston, who had been drafted in to rearrange Yolk Yellow Legged (a co-write with Yorkston from the debut album) – made a timely approach to see if she would be interested in working together.

David had been struck by the character and warmth of Marry’s singing when he had seen her performing with Yorkston in 2009. “It was earthy, dreamlike, warm, powerful and jagged. It had the capacity to be both melancholic and joyful, and could tell a story – of course Marry Waterson could tell a story!”

The match made, Marry & David entered into an eager musical correspondence by email and phone. Says David of the writing process, “What was coming back from Marry convinced me that we were on the right path. I felt a more tonal, but still dreamlike, surreal and at times dark sound was emerging. It was fascinating and exciting sending ideas and waiting to hear what came back. Marry was interpreting the pieces beautifully. I felt we were working almost telepathically at times.”

Finally Marry went about assembling a team of musicians around her to best service the material. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House, the Bright Phoebus tour and on the forthcoming Ewan MacColl tribute album Joy of Living (contributing The Exile Song), the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record, in turn enlisting the help of outstanding musicians Kami Thompson (The Rails), Michael Tanner (Plinth), Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides), Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction) and Emma Black (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).

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