Eliza Carthy – Anglicana

Published on 26 July 2003 in , ,

There’s always a smug satisfaction about owning an album before it gets nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. And no doubt Catherine is feeling smug, for Anglicana by Eliza Carthy is hers, not mine. Still I get listening rights, every third sunday.

For those that don’t know, Eliza is a folk singer. She does two kinds of folk – traditional and modern. Her last album, Angels and Cigarettes was firmly in the modern camp, and was accused of being overproduced by some (although never by me), who then claim that Angelicana is stripped back bare.

This is an accusation that I can’t understand because some of the songs on the album have some of the most complex arrangements in a song that I think I have ever heard.

The first track, Worcester City is a perfect example of this. Listen to it by headphones and you’ll soon realise just how much going on. Wonderful fiddle arrangements intertwining like mad, a hushed cymbal and a bell providing the beat, guitars going at it like mad, and a melodeon doing whatever a melodeon does. This is not a stripped back sound.

Yet despite this manic sounding combination, it all works perfectly. It works so wonderfully well that this song has won awards.

Oh, okay, let’s be fair – it is the most complex arrangements on the album, although others come close, but there’s plenty of simplicity two. Track 3, a haunting song called Limbo, for example contains just a fiddle, guitar and Eliza’s wonderful voice, yet sounds so much more. What’s simple sounds complex, what’s complex sounds simple. If that’s not skill, I don’t know what is.

The token folk album has never won the Mercury Music Prize yet. Whether this is the album that will change that track record, well probably not. But if it did, it would be an extremely well deserved winner.