Eliza Carthy & Jim Moray: Saltaire – live review

Eliza Carthy & Jim Moray – The Wayward Tour

Victoria Hall, Saltaire

4th June 2013

The historic village of Saltaire was home to a stop off for what some might call the folk music event of the year. The rather grand and ornate Victoria Hall, originally Titus Salt’s Saltaire Institute, was a truly appropriate setting for the tour to be recorded on film – not that anyone portrayed any nerves as the band were all spotted relaxing in last of the early evening sun on the lawn in front of the venue while the audience poured in to grab a vantage point at one of the tables in the wooden floored assembly hall.

In celebration of twenty one years as a touring and recording artist Eliza Carthy (“We thought about doing 21 songs. Do you know how long that takes?”) has been joined on the ‘Wayward Tour’ by relatively young pretender Jim Moray celebrating a mere ten years in the business plus a whole host of name musicians with whom she has worked during her career.

Backed by the full 11 piece Wayward Band including brass and a string section, Jim Moray opened the show with an early twentieth century ‘hit’ before providing extensive and exhaustive introductions to the songs in his set. Used to playing backed by a band and also as a solo artist, it was his duets with Lucy Farrell on Jenny of The Moor and in particular the mesmerising version of the Child ballad, Lord Douglas accompanied just by acoustic guitar which really caught the ear. The band got to show their prowess with a romp through All You Pretty Girls including, it has to be said, a rather limp audience singalong which might have been more appropriately raucous and sung with suitable gusto much later in the evening once some more jugs of ale had been quaffed.

It felt quite appropriate that as the lights dimmed for a second time that Eliza Carthy should stroll on stage to open her set accompanied only by melodeon player Saul Rose who has been a constant companion and collaborator during her twenty one year career. He’s an important cog in the wheel which is shown by his positioning upfront on stage where their eye contact is maintained throughout the performance.

The rapport between the two of them was quite palpable, not only musically, but also in their way of thinking. The music is clearly where they take their job very seriously but there are always opportunities for some light hearted banter and witticisms (not to mention Saul’s ‘purple’ joke). As they introduced Mr Walker, Saul’s innuendo tinged responses to Eliza’s songwords were clearly a product of spending too much time on the road with one of his other projects, Faustus, who delight in digging out some of the more ‘choice’ traditional songs for their repertoire.

Meanwhile, it was only the second song in the set before Eliza indulged in the first of several bouts of impressively frenetic fiddling on a song from her first solo album, Cold, Wet And Rainy Night. In fact, while the recently released compilation Wayward Daughter highlights her outstanding vocal talents across a diversity of material, the tour has given her the chance to let her fiddling skills come to the fore. In the likes of Mother and the tune Widow’s Wedding, she really let rip and blew up a storm with fellow fiddler Sam Sweeney taking his usual stance almost side stage. At the risk of sounding a little clichéd, the 13 piece ensemble, joined part way through by Jim Moray, drew the inevitable comparison with celebrated folk big band Bellowhead, drummer Willy Molleson leading the attack on Mother and Adieu Adieu with some inventive work on the kit.

With the likes of Eliza and Kate Rusby hitting the 20 plus year mark in their careers, it’s remarkable to think how quickly time passes. So yes, the Wayward Tour was a chance to look back and to celebrate not just the past twenty one years, but to look at them more like the first twenty one years and to think about the years still to come. Who would bet against a return to the formula in another twenty years? Like Titus Salt and his industrial legacy, the musical legacy of Eliza Carthy and her peers will be something to pore over in times to come. With Salt’s lasting contribution and forward thinking which has led his conception to be recognised as a world heritage site which the government has a duty to protect, the traditions in folk music are upholding deserving of the same respect.

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