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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Eliza Carthy - Neptune 2011

I've looked forward to Eliza's new album since 'Dreams of Breathing Underwater' had me drooling for more in 2008. True to form it's an eclectic combination of folk, layered with various styles and genres of music. True to form its a Curate's Egg; it's good in parts. And in some parts it's genius.

That's why you've got to love Eliza Carthy; she takes risks. Not content with possessing a voice that combines the sweetness of honey with the huskiness of a coconut, she has contrived to write an album which exploits this to the full in a variety folk based musical settings. She could play safe and churn out the folk standards, but you get the feeling she sails close to the wind with all her compositions.

Because of this attitude, there's a certain sense of gamble in listening to 'Neptune' on shuffle. Each song is either an absolute cracker or a bit of a duffer. There's nothing in-between. One minute it's the brilliant, end of the pier stomp of 'Blood on my Boots', then it's the irritating 'Monkey' that I'm forced to flick after the first fifteen seconds. Likewise, 'War', 'Britain is a Carpark' and 'Tea at Five' are all bona fide classics, but there's something uncomfortable about the Mowtown inspired slush of 'Revolution' . On the whole it's a triumph, with the gamble paying off with some original, memorable and life affirming pieces of British folk music.

There's also a tangible atmosphere to the whole LP where Eliza's voice carries you off to a fairytale world comprised of a 1950's fairground, a salty harbourside pub and a gritty northern pit village. The lyrics are semi-political with a small 'p' and particularly relevant to the Evil Coalition's 21st Century Great Britain. The more I listen the more I love it.

It's not quite a masterpiece but it's three quarters of the way there. Eliza is a national treasure who continually pushes the boundaries of the folk genre and this is an LP that should launch her to superstardom, up there with Beyonce Knowles. It won't of course, but it should do.


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