Eliza Carthy: Neptune

Last year Eliza Carthy and her mother Norma Waterson got together as a duo to make the album Gift which turned out to be one of the best folk recordings of the last few years. She also recorded an album with The Imagined Village, a multi-cultural English roots band which includes father Martin Carthy. Now we have a new solo album from Eliza. This time, in complete contrast, Neptune (Hem Hem Records) contains nothing traditional at all and is instead her third album of original songs. Like its predecessor Dreams of Breathing Underwater (2008) this is nothing if not an eclectic and adventurous affair with Eliza’s imagination running riot once more, but with a strong coherent bunch of supporting musicians generally keeping a tight rein on things. The results are even more successful than before.

The album starts with the punchy ‘Blood on my Boots’ which has electric guitar, bass, drums, accordion and honky tonk piano, and an effective use of light and shade. The changes continue throughout the ten tracks which touch on reggae, jazz, music hall and more. Some of the lyrics border on the surrealistic and there are enough musical twists and turns to make us wonder if Elvis Costello didn’t have a hand in this. ‘Revolution’ is performed in the style of a 1960s romantic pop ballad, while ‘Write a Letter’ is a gorgeous track with a lush background of strings and brass. The joyful romp through ‘Monkey’ finds the album at its most catchy and playful. ‘Britain is a Car Park’ is the only song which hints of Carthy’s background in English folk song with its opening harmony vocals. Most of the songs also contain a strong element of social comment. It’s a tough album to categorize and perhaps best not to try. Enough to say that this is Eliza Carthy’s best album of original songs to date and a thoroughly rewarding listen.

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