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ELIZA CARTHY "Heat, Light and Sound" Topic TSCD482

Having seen Eliza Carthy a few years back at Girvan Festival, performing with mum and dad, I was one of the many excited by the prospect of the "Waterson:Carthy" recording. After the release of this highly praised "Waterson:Carthy" album, I found myself to be part of a minority. A minority who felt less than elated by the slightly unfinished and at times untidy nature of some tracks. A good album and one I would recommend, but. Eliza Carthy has also recorded a couple of times with Nancy Kerr. Both these albums are interesting and often entertaining, containing much in the way of vigour, fizz and charm. "Heat, Light and Sound", is Eliza Carthy's first solo release.

Solo, but not all on her own. There are eleven other musicians, friends and kin folk, variously adding to the mix. However, the mainstay and focus is the commanding performance of the artist herself. The fiddle playing has developed an attack and tuneful ring, having moved on from the sullen tone so often featured in the past. The voice has thickened and developed and, to my ear, sounds a touch lower. Certainly more assured and assertive.

The material does not lack for variety and includes several tunes from Thomas Hardy, a morris jig, some reconstructed airs from Sussex, a number of traditional songs including two challenging ballads and, for good measure, two new songs credited to Eliza Carthy.

The songs and the singing are pivots round which this album turns. The instrumental pieces are fine, with a lightness and a humour in the performance, but it's the voice that has the personality and the songs that will get the air play. The traditional songs vary in style from the folk grunge (?), of "Jacky Tar" and the wistful, "Ten Thousand Miles", to the compelling, well recounted versions of "Sheath and Knife" and "Clark Saunders". The two new songs show signs of influences coming to the fore. "Peggy", has echoes of some of Dave Swarbrick's songs and even a hint of his singing style. "By Then", is more like the deep symbolic stuff of her aunt, Lal Waterson.

With this album Eliza Carthy will underline her status as a performer in her own right and not just as "the daughter of ... " A twenty year old with attitude, good looks, musical ability and a proven track record on stage and in studio, could be a good enough C.V. to tempt the "big money" movers and shakers to move and shake some of it her way. Who knows, sometime soon it might be, "Hey! It's, it's ... Eliza Carthy's ma and da".

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 15 of The Living Tradition magazine.