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:

Commonalities and heritage explored in brand-new music residency

Musicians and poets from across the UK and Ireland create work inspired by ancient diversity

Oran Bagraidh
Lorcán Mac Mathúna

Ten of the UK and Ireland’s finest traditional poets and musical artists including vocalists using five languages, medieval instruments: crwth and northern triplepipes as well as fiddle, harp, accordian and electronics will join together in a music residency to re-invigorate and create new music inspired by past peoples and languages of Britain.

Award winning Scots/ Gaelic singer Josie Duncan, lauded Irish song archaelogist Lorcan Mac Mathuna, former Welsh poet laureate and singer Gwyneth Glyn, celebrated Irish Sean-Nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde, Belfast fiddler Conor Caldwell, ancient instrument virtuoso Barnaby Brown, poet, singer and performance artist MacGillivray, widely published poet Rody Gorman and medieval Welsh duo Bragod will join together in a house in Galloway in South West Scotland for one week to explore their respective histories and languages through poetry and music.

Inspired by the mysterious Galloway Gaelic song ‘Oran Bagraidh’, artists will compose in the space between imagination and history. Taking the theme of multiple identities, within ancient Galloway and indeed themselves, they will explore commonalities and differences between languages, regional histories and musical sensibilities, dipping into traditional, experimental and electronic.

Waves of peoples have passed through the islands of Britain and Ireland throughout time. Many of these Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Norse, Scots and English speakers traversed and settled in South West Scotland – a major geographic, linguistic and cultural crossroads throughout history and still a significant land and sea border area today.

‘Oran Bagraidh’ (‘Song Of Defiance’) is the only surviving example of Galloway Gaelic, widely spoken across the region from the 5th to 18th century, always alongside other British languages also spoken in the area.

The recorded work will be released in February 2019, produced by Ben Seal. It will be followed by a tour in UK and Ireland.

The Oran Bagraidh residency is produced by Katch Holmes for Knockengorroch as part of the organisation’s Off Site programme. The project is funded by Creative Scotland, Arts Council Ireland and PRSF Foundation and supported by Barscobe Heritage Trust.

Website: https://www.knockengorroch.org.uk/off-site/

BELLA HARDY – With The Dawn (Noe Records NOE08)

BELLA HARDY – With The DawnLike Songs Lost And Stolen, Bella Hardy’s new album is a set of her own songs. However, With The Dawn has none of the folkiness of its predecessor, which was essentially a collection of her best unrecorded songs one of which, ‘The Herring Girl’, won a Radio 2 folk award. These songs were written about a year in Bella’s life; life on the road, life plagued with personal difficulties. My first thought was that it was a bloody awful year but Bella prefers to think of it as the sort of period everyone goes through at some time. It’s about turning thirty and leaving the years of youth behind, tackling grown-up problems.

Most of the fiddle we hear is plucked, Bella’s preferred way of writing. Indeed, most of ‘Lullaby For A Grieving Man’ was recorded on an iPhone before producer Ben Seal added the finishing touches. Echoing the plucked fiddle are three banjo players including Cara Luft, giving the record its feeling of fragility. The strength and much of the decoration is brass and drums heavy on the cymbals but an image of Bella on the sofa with her violin remains.

The opening track and single is ‘The Only Thing To Do’ in part the story of a failed love affair and in part a reflection on her career. “So should I hide a broken heart? Or let the world tear me apart again?” she sings. Again? An impartial observer would say that Bella has had it pretty good so far. Other songs tread similar ground and ‘Another Whisky Song’ and ‘Oh! My God! I Miss You’ could be pages from the Morrissey song-book. The only song written for a commission, ‘Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves A Soldier’, fits the mood perfectly. There are moments of optimism like ‘The Darkening Of The Day’, ‘Time Wanders On’ and ‘And We Begin’ – flashes of light that aren’t really the train signal masquerading as ‘First Light Of The Morning’. Bella seems to be searching for signs; is it morning or night that brings solace?

There is a long tradition of soul-searching and confessional albums and With The Dawn certainly belongs to it. But I can’t decide whether it is truly cathartic, a spontaneous outpouring of ideas and emotions, or carefully remodelled. The arrangements and Bella’s singing are both superb and Ben’s production does enough to grab the attention without dominating the songs.

Whatever you or I may think of it, With The Dawn will be in the frame next awards season.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Only Thing To Do’ – the official video: