As the name suggests, 10 Years Live celebrates the 10 years that the young and incredibly talented Carrivick Sisters have spent recording and performing music together. To say they have played together for just ten years is not strictly true as they are identical twins who have had a lifetime of sharing music, and it shows.
Most of the songs were chosen by their fans taking part in an online vote, and an interesting and eclectic collection was chosen.
The Carrivick Sisters, Laura and Charlotte, are two sublime musicians who perform a hybrid of bluegrass (without the need to adopt overtly American accents), contemporary English folk and anything else they fancy. They play the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, dobro…anything with strings it would seem to an impossibly high standard with a host of awards to prove it. While the transition from genre to genre is seamless, it’s clear they love their bluegrass.
The album starts off with a stripped down version of Suspicious Minds, the Elvis cover is an unexpected opener and sets the tone for a few surprises over the course of the album: simple clawhammer banjo for the first verse then the trademark harmonies followed by a simple fiddle part.
While Suspicious Minds may not be typical of the Carrivick Sisters, The Old Apple Tree is. It is one of a number of songs written by the girls, one in which the “old apple tree” is all that remains of a building and community. Guitar, voices and fiddle, that is all that’s needed to tell the story. The first fiddle solo is plaintive and evocative, and the harmonised choruses give a feeling of regret for something never to return. The second solo is a bit more upbeat with the writer deciding that they like things as they are.
“If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing”
I really like that line; it suggests to me that someday a carpark or supermarket will grow where once the apple tree stood, but not if the Carrivicks are in charge.
Then we get a tune by Charlotte who, if my research is correct is the flatpicker. Once through on the guitar then Laura on the fiddle with lots of double stopping and drones. Crate is just a simple little tune but the interplay between guitar and fiddle is perfect.
The Moon is a sweet country song with a health warning. Mandolin, guitar and harmonies provide the music, but the lyrics are revealing with the moon being a metaphor for a lady who is prone to toying with her admirer’s feelings.
“She’s fair from the distance, but come face to face
And you will see she’s not worth the chase.”
Lady Howard is an original traditional English folk song, but in their hands sounds Appalachian with the banjo and dobro.
Interestingly some of the songs on this album that are not original or traditional come from the “great folk song book” culled from the 70’s hay-day of singer-songwriting. River by Joni Mitchell and Sweet Baby James are two of my favourite songs, and both are well interpreted, as are In Tall Buildings and Undone in Sorrow, but for me, the strength of this duo is in their songwriting and instrumentals. The William and Emma is a brilliant piece of storytelling.
The penultimate Piggy Bank, an instrumental by Laura, is wonderful, with the mandolin and fiddle fighting for supremacy before joining in a harmonised duet. Some flat-picking that reminds me of my long lost Flatt and Scruggs album takes us into the joyous Today is a Good Day and is the right way to finish the album.
As a live album I would have liked more “patter,” but that’s a small ‘but’ for an album that showcases such incredible talents.
That said I’ll be looking out for the girls in a venue near me and listening to their back catalogue so this recording obviously hit the spot. I’m looking forward to the next ten years.