PART OF CELTIC CONNECTIONS
Tonight folk goddess Eliza Carthy seems to be emulating the spirit of Ulysses‘ Molly Bloom,no less-albeit a 21st century English version with blue hair and a white corset. Fronting her white-clad The Wayward Band, a twelve-piece folk band like no other, she is an engaging, minxy presence. They are launching their new album Big Machine and are in full-on party mode: gold glitter and party poppers fly.
Certainly many of the songs, like bouncing punky opener Devil is In the Woman, flail wildly between traditional romanticism and bawdy knee-trembler. Two drummers,accordion, handclaps and some impromptu dance routines make the band an irresistible burlesque.
It’s the push and pull of such a paradox which has always made Carthy such a thrilling live performer. She cracks jokes,cackles and shakes a voluptuous derriere, all the while playing handsome fiddle which is as elegant or scratchy as the best of her wonderful heart-thumping material.
Her cover of Ewan MacColl’s Fitters Song, or old favourite Gallant Hussar bubbles with lust and drama, and often Carthy effectively reclaims murder ballads from the jaws of the patriarchy-her heroines aren’t simply treacle-sweet or bad girls,but rather more nuanced- flesh and blood. And you have to love songs which reference death by custard; pirates and chicken killers… wouldn’t get that with Nick Cave.
There is a slight mis-step in You Know Me‘s rap section,which just sounds rather early nineties, but given that the subject matter is tolerance of refugees in our Brexit/Trump time, the song’s heart is in the right place, and it’s a timely, impassioned plea for inclusivity. Things get back on track as Sam Sweeney duets with Carthy on a skin-prickling Hug You like A Mountain.
The question is-did they deliver everything we wanted tonight? Yes. YES… YES.
Big Machine is out now on Topic Records