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Eliza Carthy "Anglicana" Topic TSCD539

I have to say from the outset that this record is a delight in every sense of the word. Here we have good clear sympathetic singing, fine instrumental work and excellent arrangements that surprise and . well. delights! I suppose I could go on adding superlatives but whilst it might be flattering to Eliza it will not help the reader to understand my enthusiasm for this record.

The songs and tunes are mainly from English oral sources (with one from Ireland) hence the CD title. Eliza freely acknowledges her debt to the excellent "Voice of the People" series of recordings issued by Topic records of singers and musicians from the past. That said Eliza does not try to recreate the source material but uses it as a basis for her own interpretations which is I feel the straight and true pathway for all would-be singers of traditional songs. The songs themselves are examples of the best from the English tradition with good story lines, humour, pathos and honesty of character that pulls the listener into the plot and hold them to the end.

Eliza performs two songs from Joseph Taylor one of the very first English traditional recording artists back in 1908 (Worcester City and Little Gypsy Girl (aka The Gypsy's Wedding). Two songs Just as the Tide was Flowing and Limbo from the now out of print Marrowbones which was the first of four books that collected together songs from the collections of George Gardiner and the Hammond brother, edited by Frank Purslow and printed by the EFDSS - good songs from a fine collection. Harry Cox is the source of The Pretty Ploughboy and Mary Ann Carolan for In London So Fair the Irish exception to this mainly English record.

It is the arrangements that bring a gasp of pleasure in many of the song performances, some of the songs are sung with simple accompaniment and others with an interesting approach that at first seems a bit unusual but works so well that it is hard to think of the song done any other way. For example Bold Privateer whilst kept simple and delivered without too much vocal decoration none the less had a guitar backing that stresses some of the musical lines in such away to suggest Bertauld Brecht; In London So Fair has a Steinway piano that gives a 'classical' air to the song without making it sound 'arty' and the last track Willow Tree is full brass, reminiscent of the trad jazz/skiffle era where, of course, variations of the song had been used as a blues standard.

There are two instrumental tracks and I feel that it is almost superfluous to say how well she plays the fiddle, bringing out the beauty of the melody lines, instilling a feeling of joy and pleasure just to hear them. Many of the traditional dance tunes are so joyful, but this is sometimes lost in sessions where the speed of playing is more important that the tune, there is none of that foolishness here. Whilst I am on the subject of instrumentation let me congratulate the accompanying musicians and singers for such a fine job that helps this CD to be so successful.

It is very pleasing that Eliza Carthy is fulfilling every hope we had in her, producing fine traditional music with a modern approach, yet retaining the very essence that makes the songs and tunes so attractive.

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.