ELIZA CARTHY – Restitute (Topic TSCD599)

RestituteHitherto only available direct from Carthy’s website, Restitute was originally recorded as a fund raiser for the Wayward Band after they lost funding for the Big Machine album project halfway through and, though eventually rescued by Topic, no one got paid, hence the prevalent theme of betrayal. Save for a couple of numbers, featuring predominantly traditional material it was recorded entirely solo in Carthy’s bedroom and marked her first such album in fourteen years.

Now made commercially available as part of the label’s 80th anniversary, Restitute opens with an arrangement of the traditional ‘Friendship’ featuring Carthy on chopsticks, violin, viola, octave violin and, er, wooden skeleton giving it an almost Japanese koto flavour. Joined by dad Martin on guitar accompanying her octave violin, the near seven-minute ‘The Leaves In The Woodland’ is a stunning reading of the Peter Bellamy number that shows her voice in fine powerful fettle.

Bellamy’s also called on for his setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Gentleman Rankers’, a poem about English army troopers, the legions of the lost, sung a capella and featuring the lost sheep baa baa chorus.

Two other potent figures from the folk heritage are represented, firstly with Carthy joined by Jon Boden on wheezing concertina for a stripped down take on Leon Rosselson’s ‘The Man Who Puffs The Big Cigar’, a song written as part of the early 70s protests against the development of Piccadilly Circus which brings together the stories of a property developer and two lovers, a stripper and trapeze artist, who arrange to meet at the Eros statue but are confounded by the building work. A long-time staple of her live set, this is its second recording (first, was with Boden for a collection called “And they all sang Rosselsongs” a few years ago) as indeed is also the case for ‘Dream of Napoleon’, rousingly performed a capella with Boden.

The other heritage name is that of Robert Burns, represented with a voice and violin revisiting of ‘The Slave’s Lament’, originally recorded for the first Waterson:Carthy album, punctuated here with her own haunting instrumental ‘Farewell To A Dark Haired Friend’.

Two further traditional numbers follow with her solo voice and violin arrangement of ‘Lady All Skin And Bone’, the lengthier and lyrically darker version of an old children’s playground Halloween song, and, another graveyard song, ‘The Old Sexton’, a lively rendition for which space was found in the bedroom for David Delarre’s acoustic guitar and Ben Somers’ double bass. It ends with Ben Seal on keys for his and Carthy’s liltingly waltzing setting of ‘The Last Rose Of Summer’, written in 1805 by Irish poet Thomas Moore, a terrific finale for an album that strips Carthy’s work back to its raw material and which will surely be greeted with open arms.

P.S. Restitute, the deluxe double disc edition featuring hand-drawn postcards and the unabridged audiobook of The Announcer’s Daughter read by Carthy with music by her and Seal broadcast on Radio 4 in 2014 is now sold out and no longer available.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.eliza-carthy.com

‘Gentlemen Rankers’ – live: