Posts Tagged ‘eliza carthy’

Eliza Carthy – Wayward and free

Posted on May 8th, 2017 in Features, Recent posts by .


Nathaniel Handy speaks to English singer-songwriter Eliza Carthy, who is the happiest she’s ever been with her new band, new voice and newfound freedom (photograph: Steve Gullick)

Eliza Carthy is back. The first daughter of folk is on a mission to make some noise. In full voice and with 11 able band mates, you’re gonna hear her coming… “I have a completely new voice. It’s like a new instrument. For a good ten years, I forgot what it was like to make music for pleasure. I lost all joy in it. That’s what the Wayward Band is for me: pure, fucking joy!”

There is a time in life, in the words of the American writer Garrison Keillor, when one should ‘whoop it up, hail a pal, split a gut, cut a rug, have a ball, or make a joyful noise.’ For Eliza Carthy – singer, songwriter, fiddler and daughter of English folk grandees Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson – that time is now.

The past few years have been tough ones. In the arc of her life, Carthy has recently had to battle a bewildering array of trauma – her mother’s illness, the break-up of a relationship, and perhaps most symbolically, the loss of her voice and subsequent operation to remove a cyst from close to her vocal cords. It’s enough to make anyone take stock of where they’ve reached and where they might be heading.

These events coincided with Carthy’s 21st anniversary as a recording artist. The milestone was celebrated with a biography by Sophie Parkes – 2012’s Wayward Daughter – and the Best Of retrospective of the same name. “If you read the biography it ends quite darkly,” reflects Carthy. “It ends at the beginning of all that sadness and I thought, that’s not the end of it. I remember I was at Sidmouth [Folk Week] and I thought, what if…?”

A stonking, great English folk big band complete with brass section. Ring any bells? The curtain closed on Bellowhead’s final show in May, but back in the early 00s, Carthy remembers how it all began. “I was touring with Jon [Boden] and John [Spiers] in the Ratcatchers when the idea of a big band came up. We all loved La Bottine Souriante, who were themselves inspired by my dad’s band, Brass Monkey. We were all interested in presenting English folk in that way: a bigger band, a bigger sound and a bigger audience.”

Carthy’s moment came some ten years later. With her at the Sidmouth Folk Week was Jim Moray, another English folk artist who has striven to take his music to a wider audience. “With a band of this size, Jim and I wanted to express the bigger ideas that we’d had on our albums, but which had been stymied by small stages and not being able to afford a big band,” Carthy explains. Moray has since left the project to pursue folk rock with his new band False Lights, but Carthy found the financial backing for The Wayward Band, and they are due to release their debut album, Big Machine, at the end of January 2017.

The new album will include 11 songs, some of which are only a minute long. Carthy appreciates the power of brevity: “I’m not a fan of records that are more than about 50 minutes long.” Two self-penned tracks include ‘Great Grey Back’ and a substantial reworking of the politically-charged 2015 single ‘You Know Me’, with beat poet Disraeli bringing spoken word to the mix. “When I first wrote that song, I don’t think anyone realised quite how dark and upsetting the refugee crisis was going to get,” explains Carthy. The echoing line – ‘not in my name’ – reverberates through this single, harking as it does to the wider anger over political disempowerment and the need for more love and less fear. Where the 2015 single was accompanied by a bucolic video of the band frolicking in orchards, the new version features a dark, bar-room video reflecting the darker hue it has taken on. This is perhaps indicative of the darkening mood of the country in general. It was produced in the build-up to the EU referendum that sank into a fear campaign about them (migrants, Europeans, foreigners?) and us (Brits, English, white Anglo-Saxons?).

The other non-traditional track is Rory McLeod’s ‘Hug You Like a Mountain’, a duet with Teddy Thompson. The final guest appearance comes from Irish singer Damien Dempsey, who joined Carthy and the band at Real World Studios to record a full, orchestral version of the traditional ‘I Wish That the Wars Were All Over’. The rest of the album features traditional material, mostly drawn from the Chetham’s Library collection in Manchester. “I did that programme for [BBC] Radio 4 last year about the Chetham’s Library – The Manchester Ballads,” says Carthy. “The wonderful librarian essentially gave me their digital archives on two discs.” That amounted to some 4,500 songs of which four appear on the album. “There’s some incredible stuff,” says Carthy. “‘The Sea’ has the most fantastically apocalyptic, cinematic lyrics of whales breaching and stormy seas. Much of the material is extremely moot. In the 1800s, you expect traditional music in England to be English, but of course it wasn’t. Especially in Manchester and Liverpool, a lot of the popular music was Irish. This isn’t the first time that this happened. It’s happened over and over and over again in this country. People forget that. These broadside ballads reflect the Irish experience.”

But for all the historical content, Carthy is always a musician who is trying to speak to a contemporary audience about tradition within the context in which we now live. “Folk music at its best – like pop music at its best – provides a common thread for people to band together in a community,” says Carthy. “If you want to return what used to be very popular to people again, how do you do that? It’s not about making an old thing better, it’s just about expressing it as a modern person who has listened to the Wombles and Coldplay and Tinie Tempah.”

In bringing this new sound to the people, Carthy has some formidable assistance. The Wayward Band is not only taking up the mantle of Bellowhead, it includes an ex-member in fiddler Sam Sweeney. There are also long-time collaborators Saul Rose (melodeon) and Barn Stradling (bass), Mawkin guitarist David Delarre, Lucy Farrell (viola), Beth Porter (cello) and Adrien ‘Yen-Yen’ Toulouse (trombone). There’s even space for both drums (Willy Molleson) and percussion (Laurence Hunt).

“With the Wayward Band, I can now fully express onstage every single aspect of everything that I’ve ever tried,” says Carthy. “It’s a massive freedom for me. I’ve always done my own string arranging and now I can have it played by the Wayward Band string section. The percussionist can programme drums for my electronic elements. I’ve got electric bass and I’ve got the bass trombone. Everyone sings. Andrew Waite, who plays squeezebox and keys, can deliver what Martin Green used to fulfil. It’s the first time I’ve actually been able to use my full palette. We can do the beauty and we can do the grunge. We can do everything. That’s why we wanted to make Big Machine.

Such breadth in depth has allowed Carthy to revisit many of the most original moments in her back catalogue in their live show. Her big hip-hop track ‘Stingo’ from her 1998 album Red Rice, for which she was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, has been given the Wayward treatment alongside that album’s main tune set ‘The Stacking Reel’. “We used to tour with a dancer,” she remembers. “We haven’t got a clog dancer in this band, so I need to get just one more person…”

Having come through the storm, Carthy seems determined to cut loose. She has assembled a motley band that appears to share her desire to have a blast and take the audience with them. “Everything that we’ve done for this record has just been joyful, which is odd for a load of miserable sods,” throws in Carthy with her trademark rich, devilish laugh – a laugh you’d imagine being emitted by Captain Pugwash villain Cut-Throat Jake. “This is the happiest band I have ever played with.” She clearly means it. This is a buoyant time, and with her newfound voice – her “new instrument” – Carthy believes we will hear her as never before on Big Machine.

This article originally appeared in Songlines #122. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:

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More acts announced for WOMAD Charlton Park 2017

Posted on March 30th, 2017 in Live, News, Recent posts by .


Orchestra Baobab, Oumou Sangaré and  Eliza Carthy & the Wayward Band are among the second wave of acts announced for this year’s WOMAD Charlton Park Festival from July 27-30.

Following February’s announcement of the first wave of acts heading to Wiltshire this year, WOMAD have revealed the latest surge of artists who will appear this coming July.

Iconic Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab take to the stage following the release of their new album Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng, the Malian vocal superstar and figure of African female emancipation Oumou Sangaré returns to the WOMAD stage for a much-awaited comeback, and folk powerhouse Eliza Carthy and her Wayward Band stop off in Wiltshire on a busy year of touring.


Other confirmed acts include:

Bixiga 70 (Brasil) 

Malmesbury School Project (UK)

Goat (Sweden)

Orkestra Mendoza (US)

Xáos (Greece/UK)

Bill Laurance (UK)

Tanzania Albinism Society (Tanzania)

King Gurcharan Mall and the Dhol Blasters (UK)

Ska Vengers (India)

Bonga (Angola)

Taiko Meantime (UK)

Inna de Yard (Jamaica)

Officina Zoé (Italy)

Meté Meté (Brazil)

Kuenta i Tambu (The Netherlands)

Beating Heart (UK)

Kakatsitsi, Gubi! Family and Bwiti (Namibia)


For tickets and more information visit


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Top of the World albums: issue #125 (March 2017)

Posted on January 25th, 2017 in Features, Recent posts by .

Here is our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the March issue of Songlines. Tracks from each of these albums are included on the free cover-CD with issue #125.

To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:


Cassie and Maggie
The Willow Collection
Cassie and Maggie
Virtuosic fiddle playing and spirited vocals characterise this beautifully conceived album, centred on a theme of the willow tree. Full of Celtic sounds from both sides of the Atlantic.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



The Encounter of Vocal Heritage
A powerful collection of mostly a capella songs, representing the movement of people, multicultural collaborations and the process of mixing native traditions with new surroundings.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Renata Rosa
A track steeped in Pernambuco folklore, anointed with subtle harmonic twists. Rosa’s genius lies in her ability to create sounds both old and new, ancestral and fresh. Enchanting.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



George Telek, David Bridie & Musicians of the Gunantuna 
A Bit Na Ta
Wantok Musik
The epitome of a successful collaboration – 26 tracks depicting the importance of music in history and culture.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



This album rocks as hard as anything the Touareg band have recorded. Power is provided by the tracks recorded in exile in the US, while the Moroccan sessions bring added poignancy.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Big Machine
Topic Records
One of Carthy’s bold settings of a Broadside ballad, opening an album of big choruses, big sounds and a big, 11-piece band. A grand statement.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Erik Aliana & Picket
Just My Soul
Buda Musique
Picket’s voice weaves in and out of Aliana’s expressive lead vocal; both are complemented by simple instrumental accompaniments played only by themselves.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Ewan MacPherson
Shoogle Records
A track that takes no prisoners in its Eastern rhythms, this opens an album of many influences and instruments, superb musicianship and humour.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Amira Medunjanin
World Village
Medunjanin’s pure-of-tone, impassioned vocals lead an intimate album of poised and powerful content. The stated aim is to pay tribute to five decades of traditional Bosnian music. Pure class.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Black String
Mask Dance
Firmly Korean in character despite the inclusion of a Western electric guitar, this album is full of dynamic rhythms and textures. One of the most exciting groups in South Korea today.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify

Pick up the March issue of Songlines to enjoy our Top of the World cover-CD, which contains tracks from each of the albums above. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, visit:

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New issue (November 2016) on sale now!

Posted on September 30th, 2016 in News, Recent posts by .

Songlines November Issue


Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, Jordanian sibling trio The Khoury Project, Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band, Lemn Sissay’s guest playlist and more

The November (#122) issue is on sale in the UK from today. Every edition comes with two free covermount CDs. The Top of the World compilation CD includes the tracks from the best new albums reviewed in the issue and an exclusive guest playlist from poet Lemn Sissay. There is also an exclusive 16-track Dutch Delta Sounds sampler, which highlights music from around the world that is rooted in the Netherlands.

On the Top of the World CD you’ll discover new tracks from international collective Kefaya, voodoo-funk explorers Vaudou Game, Austin-based chicha masters Money Chicha, and award-winning folk duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker.

Subscribe today and claim a Top of the World album for free!

Noura Mint Seymali

Noura Mint Seymali – The Mauritanian singer raising the profile of her country’s music
The Khoury Project – The Jordanian band of brothers coming to the UK
Martin Green’s Flit – The accordionist’s multimedia project about migration
Eliza Carthy – Folk’s newest big band about to hit the road
Ronald Snijders – Suriname’s kaseko flute ambassador

Elza Soares

A Beginner’s Guide to Elza Soares – She may be one of Brazil’s most famous samba singers, but her career and life have been a series of ups and downs.
Lemn Sissay – The poet and broadcaster has been honoured with an MBE, won awards and is chancellor of Manchester University. We talked to Sissay at WOMAD about discovering Ethiopia, his love of music and the artists he connects with
Joseph Tawadros & the Egyptian oud – The Cairo-born, Australia-raised oud player is now making his career in the UK.

PLUS! Reviews of the latest CD and world cinema releases.

Click here to buy the new issue.

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