Eliza Carthy, Rough Music (Topic Records, 2005)
Despite her young age, Eliza Carthy has already thrust herself into the highest ranks of the English folk music scene. The daughter of legendary folk musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, she is equally comfortable performing with her parents in the group Waterson Carthy and as a solo artist. Carthy has tried a lot of different things on her solo albums, from working with a full electric band on Angels and Cigarettes to trying out different combinations of performers on the more purely folk Anglicana. On her latest album Rough Music, Carthy enlists the services of a backing band which named themselves the Ratcatchers. Ben Ivitsky (viola and guitar), John Boden (fiddle and double bass), and John Spiers (melodeon) complement Carthy's vocals and fiddle perfectly, and the result is Carthy's strongest solo record to date. Most of the material is traditional, excepting one original song "Mohair" and a cover of Billy Bragg's "King James Version." Carthy has always had an excellent voice, and the songs on Rough Music meet her previous standards, but she and the Ratcatchers shine the brightest on the instrumentals. The standout track is "Cobbler's Hornpipe," a 3/2 hornpipe from the north of England played like an energetic Scandinavian polska. Rough Music is a fine example of how traditional music can sound fresh, exciting, and even innovative when performed by a combination of creative and talented musicians who have a great chemistry together.
Overall grade: B+