Saturday, 8 January 2011

Rough Music

by Eliza Carthy

Sometimes knowing the language of the song adds nothing to my ability to enjoy it. Even worse: completely spoils it. The English-language songs I was happily humming along when I was a child now cause nothing but embarrassment — doubtlessly a side effect of my new relationships with the lyrics. This is true for most of jazz standards (corny), 1970s prog-rock (pretentious), contemporary R&B (dumb), Christmas songs (sickening) — the list goes on.

A few years ago I discovered, to my surprise, that I can tolerate English folk music even if I do understand the words. And if I had to single out an English musician to be held responsible for this discovery of mine, that would be Eliza Carthy. I think that this 2005 album is her best so far.

In the liner notes, Eliza explains the meaning of the term “rough music” but concedes that “we’ve tried to make the album a bit nicer than that”. What a typically English understatement. Rough Music is not “nice”. The whole thing is a work of beauty. Even so, my favourites are Mohair, Tom Brown and an instrumental Cobbler’s Hornpipe.

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