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Eliza Carthy, it's fair to say, is not a particularly well-known artist. Unless you happen to be into traditional folk music (she comes from one of the best-respected folk music "families"). And it's also fair to say that not everyone will like this CD. But I'd encourage everyone to at least give it a try. Eliza is known for her blue hair and her fiddle-playing. She's also known for traditional folk singing, so this album came out of the blue (if you'll excuse the pun). Yes, it's still a bit folky, and, quite frankly, some of it is a bit weird, but if you relate to the music at all, you'll find it to be quite moving, in a funny sort of way. The songs vary from the sublimely simple to the more classic "pop" style, mixing in ambient synthesisers and, occasionally, full orchestral scores. I've heard it described as "folk plus plus", which seems to sum it up nicely. Generally, the music is gentle (notable exceptions including "Beautiful Girl"), but the lyrics are anything but. Eliza, a good ol' Yorkshire Lass, lets her accent shine through in a similar way to Cerys from Catatonia - you are in no doubt where she comes from. This may affect your listening pleasure in different ways - some might be driven mad, others will find it rather... um... endearing.(?). Topics range from offering sexual favours in order to gain affection from men, to the "beautiful people" featured in the media these days. She also covers Paul Wellar's "Wild Wood" in a very competent way, although many would, no doubt, prefer the original. I've also heard criticism of the heavy string backing on "In the Company of Men" - personally, I feel this is an ambitious track, which she carries off well, and is one of my personal highlights. Be aware though, although gentle, this is by no means an "Easy Listening" album. It draws the listener
in, forcing them to consider the lyrics, and the subtle violin solos. I have to admit I was unsure about the album for the first couple of plays, but after that, you find yourself coming back for more. And some of it is wrist-cuttingly miserable. But Eliza has cleverly interspersed all this desperate misery with upbeat songs of hope and happiness - which initially hit you like a sledgehammer, but significantly lift your mood, ready for the assault of the next track! I think anyone listening to this album would need to have at least some appreciation for folk music to really enjoy it, but the album fuses so many different styles and instruments, that there should be something for everyone. Oh, and with regards to my title - don't play "In the Company of Men" in the company of small children - there's a rude word in there.
Eliza Carthy has a reputation as a folk artist, but this album is a real departure - there are distinct jazz influences and lyrics so personal in places that they will make you feel uncomfortable. Thre are alos going to be a few rude bits in this op! Eliza Carthy has a rare folk pedegrie, with both parents (Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson)are well known folk singers. Eliza herslef has eben perfomring as a folk artists since she was quite little, and has built a reputation for excellent fiddle playing, and a compelling voice. "Angels and Cigarettes' shows a move away from these folk roots as there are some distinct jazz influences, some much more modern material and a very different style. Most of the musicians from "Red Rice" are involved with this project, so there is some continuity of sound. The tracks...... "Whispers of Summer" slightly remeniscent of some of the original material on "Red Rice" - a touch introverted and melancholy. It's quite a mellow track, not that exciting. "Train Song" - this is a really sexy track, the tune is quite striking, the sort of thing that will lodge itself in your head and follow you round. It's a love song, sample lyric: Well I stood by his shoulder and I blew on his face, His eyes were a pasture of a much greener place" Strong backing vocals on this one. "Beautiful Girl" I'm starting to suspect Miss Carthy may have some issues about physical appearance - there isn't as much bile in this as you might expect, more envy and a sense of having missed something. There's some very poetic lyrics "she looks like a tear drop of milk wrapped up in a silver gown" "Whole" Bit more up beat, and I still don't think I've figured this out, I think its probably a song about losing yourself in someone else, but the lyrics are weirdly literaly "I could clim
b all the way inside you and be you for a day". "Poor Little me" - this is a really uncomfortable track, very revealing and its a touch disturbing if you listen to the lyrics. Eliza talks about some aspect of herself that she has managed to 'kill'"She bit and fought and poisoned me". Musically quite interesting, but I still don't feel comfortable listening to it. "The Company of men" probably my favourite track, opens with the line "I've given blow jobs on couches to men who didn't want me any more," (the rude bit I warned you about)and also features the fabulous phrase "I don't want to be one of the beautiful people, cos beautiful people are boring." This is smokey jazz club in its feel, its sexy and whistful and introverted - I love it. "Perfect" There's some good thoughts in this song, again, you have to listen to the words. "Wildwood" - a Paul Weller Track, and its an interesting version, although the guitar solo is missing, which is rather a shame. Suits Eliza's voice well though. Purists and fans of the original may not like it, I don't know. "Breathe" This isn't a terribly memorable song sadly, but its well worth reading the lyrics - they don't come across well in the recording. "Fuse" another haunting track, another melancholy song, this one really does show off Eliza's voice to good effect. This is an odd album. I will admit that I didn't much like it at all when I first heard it, but it's grown on me, and now I listen to it often. Eliza is a folk singer with a folk singer's voice - she doesn't sound trained of poppy or American, but instead has a distinct northern accent - not everyone will get on with this. Her material is self obsessed and perhaps a little indulgent on this album. Fans of Eliza's work are going to have to
buy this just to find out - I don't promise you will like it, but you should give it a chance. If you haven't heard any Eliza Carthy, don't start with this album, it'll give you a very odd impression. Try 'Red Rice' or 'Heat Light and Sound' instead, especially if you are looking for something folky. I honestly don't know what music genre this album would fit in - it doesn't have a readily definable sound, but it is intruiging and lyrically it's very good. My only complaint is there really isn't very much of her wonderful fiddle playing, which is a shame.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Whispers Of Summer
2 Train Song
3 Beautiful Girl
5 Poor Little Me
6 Company Of Men