Given Eliza Carthy's well-documented fondness for collaborating with others, it would seemingly take something unusual to get her to record an album all by herself. It would be especially significant given her recent work with the Wayward Band, a full-bodied 12-piece ensemble who began recording and touring with Carthy in 2013. But as it happens, the Wayward Band is the reason Carthy moved a small recording setup into her bedroom and began work on her 2019 album Restitute. Financial backing for Carthy's 2017 album with the Wayward Band, Big Machine, collapsed midway through recording, and as a consequence, the musicians didn't get paid. Carthy was appropriately upset with this situation, and she recorded Restitute with the specific purpose of raising the money to see bandmates get their wages. After working on a grand scale with the Wayward Band, the intimacy of Restitute feels warm and vital, allowing us to listen to Carthy work these songs at close range, with the grain of her vocals and the eloquent scrape of her violin front and center. While Carthy originally intended to record Restitute completely solo, she did bring in a few friends to help out on several tracks (including her father, Martin Carthy, as well as Jon Boden, Dave Delarre, and Ben Somers), but even with the occasional piano, accordion, or harmony vocal, Restitute allows the listener to appreciate the strength and honesty of Carthy's performance in a richness of detail that's quietly dazzling, and she earns the spotlight this album shines on her. Ben Seal co-produced and engineered the sessions for Restitute, and the transparency of the audio serves this music beautifully. Anyone who has followed Carthy's career already knows she's as intelligent and perceptive an interpreter of traditional folk music as can be heard in these days, and after years of working in the context of ensembles with others, Restitute shows her gifts are every bit as striking when observed on a smaller stage. Restitute is music that was created on a modest scale, but the talent on board is massive, as is the value of the performances, and Carthy's home-brewed album is a rare treat.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming