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CD: Eliza and Martin Carthy - The Moral of the Elephant | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Eliza and Martin Carthy - The Moral of the Elephant

CD: Eliza and Martin Carthy - The Moral of the Elephant

Austere beauties abound on the father-and-daughter's first album of duets

Eliza and Martin Carthy

They've performed together on stage and in the studio since the first Waterson:Carthy albums of the early 1990s, but this is the first time Martin and Eliza Carthy have recorded as a duo, and they've kept it lean and clear with just their voices, Eliza's fiddle and Martin's guitar – each element distinct enough by itself, but together creating a very pure, personal kind of austere beauty. There's no excess baggage, and the tunes are handled with the kind of expertise, love and assured interpretation that comes with a lifetime's immersion.

The opening “Her Servant Man” is a succinct demonstration of Martin Carthy's qualities as a guitarist and singer, both dictated by his unique, clipped phrasing and elastic sense of time, opening up hidden angles and stresses in timing and delivery. Eliza's accompaniment is subtle and subdued, serving the tune rather than decorating it. “Happiness” follows, a cover of one of Molly (mother of Nick) Drake's sweet, melancholy and very English piano tunes, and features Eliza in great voice over Martin’s elegant and spare guitar. “On Blackwell Merry Knight”, a Cumbrian tune from the early 1800s, the duo’s fiddle, guitar and vocal harmonies are both idiosyncratic and perfectly matched. Their vocal and instrumental duet on “Grand Conversation on Napoleon” is magnificent – the English poor’s hope of his delivering them from dire poverty is not a part of history you hear about much, but it spills through hundreds of folk songs.

Further in, the title song adapts a poem by John Godfrey Sax, itself adapted from an ancient Indian story of blind men perceiving an elephant with collective touch, while “Waking Dreams” is a sad Dorset tune carried by Eliza with emotion and subtlety. The closing “Died for Love”, long associated with the late Mike Waterson, is the prize. They performed it at this year’s BBC Folk Awards, a stark, unequivocal showstopper, and it’s the highlight of this album of beautiful, austere performances.

The tunes are handled with the kind of expertise, love and assured interpretation that comes with a lifetime's immersion

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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