CD: Eliza Carthy, Dreams of Breathing Underwater


Eliza Carthy is one of the finest and bravest performers in the British folk revival. Eight years ago, she was dropped by Warners after her first intriguing album of self-composed songs, Angels and Cigarettes; undeterred, she continued her inventive and classy reworking of traditional material. Now, at last, there's an even finer new album of her own songs, released on our best-known independent folk label, Topic. It's effortlessly confident, wildly varied and almost impossible to categorise. There are British folk influences, of course, but mixed in with everything from trip-hop to mariachi, country and swing, with backing brass, strings, accordion, banjo and Carthy's own violin, piano, melodeon or guitar work.

Just to be awkward, the album starts with the least interesting track, Follow the Dollar, dominated by Carthy's raw electric guitar. But then it switches to the poignant, Tom Waits-influenced Two Tears, the shuffling rhythm patterns of Rows of Angels, and the bleakly witty, south-of-the-border brass of Mr Magnifico. Then she changes direction again, from the squeezebox dance work of Little Bigmen to a glorious brassy ode to a bad night's drinking, Oranges and Seasalt. Magnificent.


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

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