Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band: Big Machine – album review
ELIZA CARTHY & THE WAYWARD BAND: BIG MACHINE
Never one to stand still or contentedly plough the same furrow, Eliza Carthy epitomises progressive folk. Never predictable…well very rarely, as for once, she delivers what we all hoped for and possibly expected. ‘Big Machine’ rolls up marking the long awaited and very welcome recorded work from Eliza Carthy & The Wayward band – a band project she’s occasionally courted for the past few years.
The live incarnation of the Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band has been active since 2013; an outfit assembled to celebrate her twenty years in the biz and delivering some incendiary shows which simply had to continue to ride the wave of its unstoppable force. It’s some way from her last collaboration on the distorted guitar and blues drenched stripped back combo she formed with American musicologist Tim Eriksen. Her expanded Wayward Band line up isn’t far short of an all star band; featuring the instantly familiar names from the folk world of Saul Rose, David Delarre, Sam Sweeney, Beth Porter , Lucy Farrell, Barnaby Stradling not to mention a brass pairing of Yenyen Toulouse and Nick Malcolm.
They have duly evolved into what it says on the tin. A big machine, appearing as marauding heathen brigands, emerging from the backdrop of an overcast sky led by a corseted princess warrior. Marching forth, taking no prisoners, looting and pillaging the songbooks; but does the studio dampen down the exuberance and vitality of the live experience…thankfully not. No dampening at all as topics shift from whales to the contemporary issue of immigration given a fresh twist from the viewpoint of hospitality, to female serial killers, women in industry, domestic abuse and the woman’s lot in general. Oh, and custard poisoning. Chetham’s library in Manchester also proved to be grounds rich for picking, a timely raid of the broadside ballad collection.
So a little drama to begin with as ‘Fade & Fall’ a touch of Bond theme and ‘Devil In The Woman’ has an Oliver Twist Victorian workhouse singalong feel. Ewan MacColl’s ‘The Fitter’s Song’, a radio ballad about the building of the M1 gets the big band feel as New Orleans jazz and r&b combine with rollicking rhythms and while any twelve piece big band playing folk flavoured songs and tunes is going to get compared with the late Bellowhead, ‘Jack Warrell’s – Love Lane’ is as close as you’ll get. A mesmerising full band romp, firing on all cylinders through a brass and string driven piece introduced by a slowly building vocal blend (presumably the ‘Jack Warrell’s’ excerpt) it meets the challenge of capturing the live energy. As does the wild gypsy fiddle of ‘Mrs Dyer The Baby Farmer’ that accompanies a chilling tale executed with a rare passion and vibrancy.
Damien Dempsey thrown in at the deep end on ‘I Wish That The Wars Were All Over’ a torrid delivery over a bubbling sequencer rather than the usual melodeon duet with Saul Rose. Recorded live at Real World it’s a landmark piece and the best of the numbers where the pace slows down; ‘You Know Me’, featuring MC Dizraeli, plods along in a more mid paced mainstream dub and ‘Hug You Like A Mountain’ features Teddy (son of Richard) Thompson take on a more accessible although no less intense feel and give the chance for a breather amidst the fury. Of course they provide further evidence that Eliza and her acolytes continue to be rarely anything less than a set of challenging, thought provoking and out of the box musicians.
You can watch ‘Fade & Fall (Love Not)’ from the album here:
The Eliza Carthy website is at : http://www.eliza-carthy.com/