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Eliza CarthyEliza Carthy
Album: Restitute
Label: Scarlet
Tracks: 10

Eliza's latest solo album is a special-edition limited deluxe double-CD release, available exclusively through her website. It's a fund-raiser, pure and simple. Every penny raised from the sale of this release will be dedicated to paying the members of the (UK) Wayward Band in restitution for the monumental con they suffered back in 2016 whereby they lost the funding for their ambitious Big Machine album project (and luckily were finally rescued by Topic Records). Hence the title.

There's a deeply wholesome feelgood "at home" vibe to Restitute. It was recorded quite literally at home in Eliza's bedroom, and Eliza and her producer, Urban Farm Hand's Ben Seal, have deliberately gone for the authentic, unadulterated in-yer-face Eliza Experience, communicating directly from the gut of experience as it were. It's Eliza's first traditional "solo" album in 14 years, she refers to it as it her "solo album with no-one else on it" (heavy irony, for she managed to squeeze into her bedroom Martin Carthy, Jon Boden, Dave Delarre, Ben Somers and Ben Seal - though not all at once, evidently!…).

It's true that some listeners may have foundered with one or two of Eliza's more "wayward" latter-day projects; even as a staunch long-term Eliza fan, there have been moments when I've not been wholly convinced (I found Big Machine difficult to get to grips with for instance, and it's still a bit of a challenge at times). So the "firmly back-to-the-roots" approach of Restitute will banish any doubts that Eliza can still cut it (and how!), and at a stroke confirms her status as one of the country's foremost traditional song interpreters. Quite simply, it's an essential, and thoroughly convincing, record.

The album tracks exemplify Eliza's strengths in the field of traditional song interpretation and performance, turning the spotlight on the various facets of her musical character (the voice, the violin, the passion and zest, the cutting edge), bringing together these special skills either in resolutely solo mode or in intimate collaboration with her fellow-musicians and singers. Highlights of this collection include a new rendition of Friendship (inspired by her collaboration with Tim Eriksen), accompanied by a tricky scuff-and-pizzicato figure, a superbly characterised a cappella account of the Bellamy Kipling setting of Gentlemen Rankers, and a persuasive stripped-down (voice and concertina) take on The Man Who Puffs The Big Cigar. Eliza also revisits, with the help of Jon Boden, two songs she's performed live for years, but here has managed to record for the first time The Dream Of Napoleon (as a spine-tingling a cappella duet). But the album's tour-de-force is almost certainly Eliza's fabulously gripping account of Robert Burns' The Slave's Lament (which she originally recorded on the first Waterson:Carthy album), here bedecked with some truly magnificent violin playing. The Last Rose Of Summer forms the disc's apt, atmospheric conclusion.

All told, Restitute resonates very deeply, and does exactly what Eliza intended, for it unquestionably positively radiates with warmth and immediacy and absolute conviction.

The Limited Edition release isn't just the Restitute solo album, however. It features artwork in the form of hand-drawn exclusive art cards, and another highly desirable element. A second disc in the form of an audiobook, The Announcer's Daughter, read by Eliza with original music written by Eliza and played by Eliza and Ben Seal. The story was originally broadcast (tho' in an abridged version) in 2014, on Radio 4 (in the network's Stories from Composers strand), but here you can experience it in its full glory for the first time - so no doubt it'll prove great bedtime listening (Cocoa With Carthy?!)!

You really can't do without a copy of this edition IMHO, and its artistic qualities entirely cohere with its fundraising rationale. Go order it while you can…

David Kidman