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MusicNorth East & YorkshireReview

Eliza Carthy and the Restitution – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Eliza Carthy is folk music royalty. Her father, Martin, one of the more innovative players of the 1980s and 1990s, provides links with Steeleye Span, Dave Swarbrick and Brass Monkey. Her mother, Norma Waterson, takes her into the great Waterson clan; early in her career Eliza even sang with a group called The Waterdaughters! Then there is the association with the perpetually inventive duo, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, and through them the connection to the great Pete Seeger.

All this showed in her programme, mainly linked to her new album, Queen of the Whirl, on which she revisits songs of her 30 year career – songs chosen by fans on twitter! But the difference is that now they are performed by The Restitution, a fine six-piece in which Eliza’s fiddle is supported by accordion, keyboards, guitar, bass and drums.

So we begin with an unaccompanied Napoleonic ballad, Carthy’s voice true and powerful, if (as she points out) somewhat lower than of yore, all five accompanying voices tellingly precise. But we’re soon into numbers where the instrumental accompaniment is crucial: Pete Seeger’s My Father’s Mansions, for instance, sung with intense conviction and with keyboards and accordion making their mark.

Carthy put the nuisance of a cold behind her, jovially chatting with the audience, clearly enjoying every moment and even, towards the end, launching into some comic dancing. Not that there was anything comic about the songs, Whirly Whorl maybe, a spirited finish to the first half. Mr Magnifico is launched on a deadpan narrative by the drummer and the moment when the violin comes in is somehow reminiscent of Charlie Daniels’ The Devil Came Down to Georgia.

Carthy’s respect for others is obvious in songs such as The Black Queen, dedicated to Lol Waterson, and a final tribute to the late Wilko Johnson, Stumbling On. But the final encore restores the fun element, with an accordion solo introducing the number and the momentum building bar by bar.

A hefty percentage of the audience (not including your reviewer) seemed to find everything familiar (maybe they were among the tweeters who chose the tracks), but, so far from coasting on the love of her fans, Eliza Carthy gave 100 per cent – and the same goes for The Restitution whose names, sadly, escaped me.

Reviewed on 26th November 2022.

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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