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Critics Award Eliza Carthy

Eliza Carthy (England)

Song : Worcester Park
Nominated album : Anglicana (Topic records)

Elsewhere in BBCi : Eliza's story | Eliza's concert with refugees

Here comes Eliza, back from her adventures in the corporate pop world, to re-state her individual crusade for English traditional music with the bullishly titled Anglicana.

In truth this is the more exciting of the two. Eliza has invested so much energy and imagination into finding different ways of presenting the tradition to a new generation, her role as a champion of English song has often overshadowed her credentials as a performer of it.

Let there be no doubt this is her most majestic and mature solo album yet, as she gets to the heart of a succession of big ballads, in a heartfelt manner that has direct lineage to those great old singers featured on The Voice Of The People, yet still reflects the freshness of youth with subtle, original and sensitive arrangements. The snail-paced treatment of Just As The Tide Was Flowing is an exceptional heartbreaker and Little Gypsy Girl has some delicious harmonies from mum Norma and cousin Maria and an irresistible raggedy spirit. An odd, industrial percusssion rhythm lifts Pretty Ploughboy with its haunting chorus, recently used so effectively by Chumbawamba.

Eliza gives a bravura vocal performance on Bold Privateer over a brilliant Tim Van Eyken guitar arrangement, and there's a beautiful fiddle/ guitar duet with her old man on Dr Mcmbe (think about it), written in honour of his 60th birthday. Yet perhaps the most compelling of all is Worcester City, featuring John Spiers & Jon Boden as on several other tracks, with a driving drumbeat and fiddle line of such intensity it recalls the spirit of vintage Fairport, Sandy Denny and all.

Colin Irwin for fRoots magazine 2002

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