One of the most prominent figures in the English folk revival, Eliza Carthy has recently released her first ‘solo’ album of traditional folk music in 14 years. At The Stoller Hall this April, she’ll perform Restitute alongside material from her illustrious discography.
To anyone with an interest in the modern folk scene, Eliza Carthy will be more than familiar. Her two decade-long career has spanned solo projects, collaborative ventures and family albums, nearly all of which have been met with rich acclaim.
Eliza rose to prominence as a singer and fiddler in the mid-90’s folk group Waterson-Carthy, which she formed with her parents Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson – two folk icons in their own right. There followed a string of glittering solo albums, including the Mercury Prize-nominated Red Rice (1998). Melding tradition and modernity, this record had a youthful spirit that drew on a melting pot of influences and genres, from Celtic folk to jazz – the constant thread being Carthy’s deft fiddle playing and angelic voice.
A handful of richly acclaimed projects followed – Waterdaughters, Blue Murder, The Kings of Calicut – as well as high profile collaborations with everyone from Billy Bragg to Wilco to The Oysterband. Eliza then turned back to her traditional folk roots with Anglicana (2002), a solo album that was not only nominated for another Mercury Prize but also won no less than three BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
After a plethora of collaborations and side projects over the next decade, Eliza decided to change things up. In 2017, she released the fantastic Big Machine, a vibrant fusion of traditional folk, rock and jazz. In order to perform this music, she formed a 12-piece called The Wayward Band. But there was a hitch. Midway through the making of Big Machine, The Wayward Band were the victims of a “monumental con” which left them without funding and as such, without payment for their hard work.
Rectifying the situation in the only way she knew how, Eliza’s 2019 solo album Restitute was conceived as a fundraiser to fully compensate her collaborators. Recorded in her childhood bedroom in Robin Hood’s Bay, this raw but charming album is about a pilgrimage towards friendship from a dark place. The track ‘The Man Who Puffs the Big Cigar’ (originally by Leon Rosselson) brims with passion as Eliza scorns greedy schemers atop the plaintive wheeze of an accordion.
Whilst billed as a solo album we do hear some familiar voices, including that of her father. His deft guitar playing entwines with Eliza’s fiddle in ‘The Leaves in the Woodland’ (originally by Peter Bellamy), a track which features Eliza’s voice at its most buoyant. We also get some a cappella tracks like ‘Helter Skelter’, which puts a Jonathan Swift poem to a lively, wide-ranging melody. Finally, the album ends on a message about the importance of friendship and community, for, as Eliza muses in the Rhodes-accompanied ‘The Last Rose of Summer, “Who would inhabit this bleak world alone”?
The band for the Restitute tour comprises Eliza Carthy, Ben Seal, Ben Somers, Willy Molleson and David Delarre – with a special guest appearance from Saul Rose. This should be a really special evening at The Stoller Hall. Don’t miss it.
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