Concert review: Eliza Carthy


ALTHOUGH only in her mid-thirties, singer and fiddler Eliza Carthy has over 20 years of gigging experience under her belt – thanks to an early start with her folk-icon parents, Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson – earning her equal renown as both a musician and a truly exceptional live performer. As is her wont, and despite this show's being consigned to the Arches' deepest, least prepossessing basement space, she captivated the audience equally with her flamboyant, heartfelt delivery of the songs, drawn mostly from new album Neptune, and by chatting away cheerily between times as if to a pal in the pub.

Neptune is Carthy's third collection of original material, as opposed to the traditional English songs for which she's best known, its tracks being thus tailor-made for her expansive stylistic and vocal palette – as well as for her excellent four-piece band, on piano/accordion, cello, double bass and drums, with whom she created the album's arrangements. Romeo switchbacked between voluptuous yearning and stormy drama; Revolution steered stirringly into torch-song territory; Monkey brought a buoyant reggae stomp to its reimagining of Fay Wray's plight, and Blood on My Boots recalled the dark ambivalence of Weimar cabaret, all crowned with Carthy's sensuous, Yorkshire-accented contralto, its lush elasticity always enriched by an undertow of melancholy.

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There was strong support, too, from Edinburgh's The Bevvy Sisters, matching artfully entwined three-part harmonies with gutsy, gritty rhythmic backing, in a selection of vintage Americana and arresting self-penned roots-pop.