Eliza Carthy

Red

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Originally released in 1998 as half of the two-CD set Red Rice and reissued on its own in 2001, Red shows the alternative pop side of Eliza Carthy. There's a folkish tinge to some of the songs -- the opening "Accordion Song" also shows off a facility for zydeco tunes -- but the overall feel is a little more Jane Siberry than June Tabor. Even the handful of traditional English folk tunes are given adventurous treatments that stray far afield from purism; "10,000 Miles" and the blinding reel "Stingo," a showcase for Carthy's exceptional fiddle playing, have the same sort of loose, rock-oriented playfulness as the best Fairport Convention (or Cordelia's Dad) blends of pop and trad. Carthy's magnificent voice -- she's every bit as good a singer as her mother, Norma Waterson, who may be the finest singer of traditional British folk music -- is at the forefront of these songs, and the arrangements are rich without sounding cluttered. Folk purists will be especially offended by the last three tracks, which blend Carthy's voice and fiddle with electronic keyboards and drum programming, but the closing "Red Rice," a storming fiddle instrumental over a dancefloor-ready electronica base, nonetheless resembles the more manic moments of the late, great Silly Wizard.

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