Album Review | Top of the World | Martin & Eliza Carthy – The Moral of the Elephant

Posted on July 5th, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Martin & Eliza Carthy

Words by Tim Cumming

Layout 1Keeping it in the family

We’ve heard them together in Waterson:Carthy, but this is the first time father and daughter have recorded as a duo, and it deserves a place up there with the best of the family oeuvre. The single ‘Happiness’, a cover of one of Molly ‘Mother of Nick’ Drake’s piano songs, features Eliza in great voice over Martin’s typically spare, telling guitar. Martin’s voice and guitar on the opening ‘Her Servant Man’ sounds like nothing else in music, opening up hidden angles and stresses in timing and delivery; while on ‘Blackwell Merry Knight’, the duo’s fiddle, guitar and vocal harmonies manage to be both wholly idiosyncratic and perfectly matched.

Their vocal and instrumental duet on ‘Grand Conversation on Napoleon’ is magnificent – the English poor’s yearning for Napoleon to deliver them from dire poverty is not a part of history you hear about much, but it spills across hundreds of folk songs. Further in, the title-track adapts a poem by John Godfrey Saxe, while ‘Waking Dreams’ is a sad Dorset tune carried by Eliza with emotion and subtlety. The closing ‘Died for Love’, long associated with Mike Waterson, wins the prize. They performed it at this year’s BBC Folk Awards, a stark, unequivocal showstopper, and it’s the highlight of this generous and beautiful album.

Track to Try: ‘Died for Love’

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