The contrast between the cover portrait of beaming mother and daughter and the piteous ballads inside couldn't be greater. Not all of Gift is downbeat – there's a crazed segue of "Ukulele Lady" and Amen Corner's "(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice" – but its core tracks are preoccupied with mortality. Traditional songs like "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and "Bunch of Thyme" lament life's passing, as does Longfellow's "Psalm of Life", while for distraction come a couple of murder ballads. The playing from the Carthys' extended clan is often exquisite – Eliza Carthy's fiddle on "The Nightingale, for Kate" is a case in point – but the synergy of the album's parts falls frustratingly short.
Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson: Gift | CD review
Neil Spencer is a writer and an astrologer for The Observer