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Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr - Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr MCRCD3991

I have immense respect for anybody who can make the fiddle sound like a musical instrument. I once tried to master it myself, to the infinite distress of the family dog, but quickly decided it should be left to the experts. Which is what these two obviously are, maintaining a constant flow of appropriate harmonies, which would leave many fiddlers with more performance experience standing, and the rest of us gaping in awe.

I warmed to this C.D. immediately with the first track - for all its over-exposure 'Speed the Plough' is still a damn good tune, which can stand endless repetition by competent musicians. I would love to graft Eliza and Nancy's playing on to the front end of some well-known electric ceilidh bands so that we could actually hear the tune - and then maybe we could dance to it. But that's another story ...

The singing throughout is impeccable (what else do you expect with those genes?) although Eliza seems to have the more powerful voice. Nancy's, I feel, still has some developing to do. I particularly like 'Bushes & Briars', where both are singing, and it was here I felt the Carthy family influence was most apparent. The 'Wrong Favour' is described as a spleen-venting song, and that it certainly is. It packed such concentrated venom into five minutes that I ended up feeling quite sorry for whoever inspired it, although I found the backing overpowered the words at times.

Of the tunes I would pick out for a mention 'The Storyteller' - the Kerr household must have a very inspiring bathroom judging by Nancy's claim to have written a whole set in it, and 'Alistair's' which the girls call Northumbrian French. Personally I found it decidedly French, almost hypnotic, and reminiscent of hurdy-gurdys, which always have me running for the exit, I just can't get on with the things. (Alistair writes some excellent tunes, but I sometimes wish he would stop trying to be Czech, French etc etc., and concentrate on what he does so well - being Northumbrian). They make a very convincing job of it however.

There are things that I could say are 'wrong' with this recording, but most of them are matters of pure taste, and some of them are nit-picking in the extreme. I would have preferred a little more variety of texture - perhaps a few really spiky tunes to counteract a slight tendency towards monotony. Maybe this is why I really like the 'Storyteller' - now that did sound Northumbrian, although I did not find that Daniel Wood's piano playing had enough 'bounce' to really lift the tune. The last track, 'Black & White Rag', whilst obviously great fun for the performers, seemed to have been added to fill the space available rather than to contribute musically. Delightful giggles, though!

I don't think these two have reached the peak of their musical development yet. I shall add them to the regrettably short list of really excellent English fiddlers, and look forward to their next production with considerable anticipation.

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This album was reviewed in Issue 3 of The Living Tradition magazine.