I’ve always found Eliza Carthy a very sobering and forward thinking artist. She has never been one to shy from musical explorations or to sit on the side-lines watching the world overtake her. Her desire to break away from the traditional folk mould was evident on Red and Rice (1998) when she joined the progressive rank of fusionists such as Martyn Bennett and Afro Celt Sound System when she fused fiddle with the dancefloor. Her last solo album Dreams of Breathing Underwater was an equally gutsy carnival of sound that surprised many fans and woke up the British music press to the ongoing Waterson/Carthy legacy. Her latest album, Neptune, takes her journey to the next level that she aimed at with her last solo release and ranks as her boldest and brightest work to date.
Neptune is very much a pinnacle in Eliza Carthy’s 15 year career which see’s her first release on her own label HumHum Records. She’s in a great place to observe and absorb the past having reached highly acclaimed public recognition. Her work is very reflective and her recent years have not exactly been uneventful or without their trials and tribulations. She’s a gutsy lady and where others may flounder she draws strength. She’s honest when it comes to self-criticism and whilst her last album went down a treat she feels it was tackled “Ben-Hur-style, everything with extra horse, seven years to make approach”. Neptune is a chronology of the last ten years of her life covering everything in the sun and shadows from ending relationships and starting new ones and acknowledging imperfections as a norm, not that that quells her romantic heart which has inspired many great musical moments. The title Neptune relates to an astrological reading she had done by a friend, whatever the results of that reading it sowed a seed that has probably blossomed beyond her critical expectations.
Neptune is by no means overly introspective and features observations on British life where Britain is a Car Park “a near and possible future where we, from our tiny island, have all moved to Spain, and left our cars behind to be looked after by people who can’t afford to move to Spain…then we all enjoy the unique local food, with chips, naturally.” Good to see she still has her cheeky Yorkshire sense of humour! The track opens to a tongue in cheek “and the oak and the ash, and the bonny ivy tree, we covered them in tarmac, sold the land to NCP” before ripping into a powerhouse of song combining ska and accordion madness that Lau’s Martin Green would be chuffed with.
Cabaret and the burlesque atmosphere is still present but in more measured doses. Hansel takes a jazzy stroll past Le Chat Noir which had me wanting more…but this is a genre bending album, no time to settle, this is an attention grabbing production which also features modern-day doo-wop with Revolution and calypso driven War.
As well as being a bright and colourful album, Eliza is on top form with pen and her sharp stabbing observations which catch you by surprise and will get you thinking. Eliza Carthy never cease to amaze me and Neptune is an absolute blinder of an album that will appeal to long-time fans and virgin entrants to the ongoing Waterson/Carthy legacy!
Remaining Tour Dates
7 Th UK Eastleigh – Eastleigh Festival of Music
8 F UK Oxford – Oxford Academy
9 S UK Wells, Somerset- Priddy Folk Festival