Eliza Carthy
Red Rice
Topic / UK

Carthy Eliza Carthy has had the impossible thrust upon her very early in life. With parents from the musical nobility of England, and with an awful lot of awards and accolades to her credit, she is inevitably faced with keeping stride, producing at a pitch few young performers can deal with. So far she's done well, and with Red Rice continues her trek towards perfection, with inevitable stumbles and some fine achievements. Red Rice is an ambitious two CD project, each focusing on a distinct yet related style. Red is the "contemporary" album. Her band uses reggae, folk, 60s and 70s folk-rock and 90s rave to mix it up on original and traditional tunes. Much of it harkens back to Steeleye Span and Fairport, good fun, but nothing earth shattering. The tracks that really win your heart are the ones that pull themselves out of the tradition, like the barrelhouse boogie of "Stumbling On" (penned by mom Norma Waterson) and Carthy's own "Russia (Call Waiting)," which presses a lot of buttons (electronically and figuratively) and succeeds wonderfully.

On Rice we get the folkier side. Which is not to say less adventurous, just more rooted. With Saul Rose on accordions, the cryptic "Fontenots" on guitar and vocals, Ed Boyd on guitar and Eleanor Waterson and Lucy Adams on vocals she gets to really show off her great musicianship and skill as an arranger; lots of energy, lots of attitude. Just listen to "Zycanthos Jig." Grace, skill and perception abound. Carthy is carving herself a niche in the musical life, and Red Rice is further proof that she has the guts to try, fail and often succeed. - CF

Topic Records, UK

Take all the talent, skill and flourish of the previous generations folk heroes, distill it and bottle it, and what you pour out may well be this band's music. At the ripe young age of "too young to be this good," Carthy and her Kings have made a wonderful record that will keep you hopping, make you grin, and act as a warning of great things yet to come. While the solemnity of her music with her illustrious forbears ranks high, here Carthy gets to kick out the corners and unfurl some lively tunes, quirky grooves and yes, a few trivial pursuits that will be forgiven a band willing to explore the outer perimeters and occasionally stumble.

While Carthy's fiddle and voice are important elements here, the ensemble is the focus of this album, and its impressive. The gifted Eliza gets pushed hard by this crew and delivers some fine performances. A creative rhythm section is found in Barnaby Stradling's bass and Andy Well's rock and roll drum kit. Perhaps the defining overall sound of the album is Maclaine Colston's hammer dulcimer, from whence comes a lot of the rhythmic drive of the songs, coupled with (or playing against) the melodeon of Saul Rose, a talent to watch now and in the future. The drive these two give to the calypso gone Brit-folk on "Mr Walker" is marvelous, and points out this ensemble's strongest element, its willingness to breach the tradition, skewer the classics, and have some fun. - CF

Heat, Light and Sound
Topic Records

British folk music has gone through a thousand "revivals" over the centuries, each one with its own charms... and foibles. Each decade's "revival" has brought with it one or two bands or performers that have been in the forefront (even lamentably hailed as "saviours") in making the music not only return to public attention, but grow and become contemporary again. In this category is surely fiddler Eliza Carthy, and with her first solo recording she can certainly lay claim to the glory (and silliness) that comes with the crown. It's no coincidence that she has the talent and drive she does. She's the daughter of guitarist Martin Carthy and singer Norma Waterson, both bearers of the flame in the last generation and both still at the forefront of the British folk scene. Where the eighties saw the electric punk version of folk riding the airwaves, this newest incarnation has hung on to the acoustics without losing the fire and passion of their older sisters and brothers.

But all the lineage and trendiness will fade from your view as you listen to the music this woman can make. Ignore the formidable virtuosity for a moment and concentrate on the energy this fiddler/singer and her band can make. Songs as old as the hills seem brand new, and new songs have the vitality of tradition; not a bad combination! Eliza Carthy, and her cohorts like sometimes partner Nancy Kerr, are making the next wave of folk music in Britain, and getting ready to pass it on again. - CF

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