The Watersons, Early Days

Steve Hochman

By Steve Hochman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Rough Yorkshire accents belie this group’s intricate, familial weavings of melodies and harmonies.

The cover echoes early Beatles shots, fitting since this group is often termed the Beatles of English folk music. That's an odd designation for a quartet (Mike Waterson, his sisters Norma and Lal and their cousin John Harrison) who performed songs of rustic life largely a cappella. But their injection of idiosyncratic edges and a regional accent (from the Yorkshire County village Hull to the Beatles'proud Liverpudlian diction) indeed made them a Fab Four in their own right. The rough country tones may be a bit of a shock, but the intricate, familial weavings of melodies and harmonies are astounding. Early Days is exactly that — bringing together the group's revelatory mid-’60s albums "The Watersons" and "A Yorkshire Garland," tracking the hardships and joys of working life ("The Greenland Whale Fishery"), rootlessness ("I Am a Rover") and profligate indiscretion ("The Wanton Wife of Castlegate").