Eliza Carthy sits high in the folk hierarchy and has done for some time now, her position highlighting the honesty and vulnerability at Restitute’s core. Through Restitute, Carthy hopes to compensate the members of the Wayward band that accompanied her on recent releases after they went unpaid due to disputes with a record label.
Such a personal endeavor naturally creates a stripped back album. Recorded in Carthy’s bedroom, without a backing band, (though some highly esteemed special guests do make an appearance) Restitute hits a more reflective and cautious mood than most of her releases.
Friendship, with its theme of people over worldly concerns, is a natural opener. The Leaves in the Woodland is also a natural thematic fit. Written by Philip Townsend, who Carthy cites as something of a mentor, the song reflects upon innocence lost and realization of life’s more brutal edges.
The Man Who Puffs the Big Cigar, through the story of Suzie and the cigar smoking man, considers the way in which money intercedes on human relations. Accompanied by Jon Boden, Eliza combines moments of real power and delicateness.
Roughly half of Restitute’s tracks fit into the loose theme of human relations and that which intercedes upon them. The remaining tracks are included because with no band behind her Carthy is free to indulge herself and record songs that have otherwise been neglected. Dream of Napoleon was learned from her family and is recorded here with Jon Boden in an impressive duo that is the definition of something being more than the sum of its parts.
The words of Helter Skelter are taken from the poem by Jonathan Swift, a fun and punchy description of young attorneys. Unaccompanied Eliza is free to really expand and vary pitch and tempo at will.
The second unaccompanied track, Gentleman Rankers, is a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Like Helter Skelter, it depicts men of means, in this case those who through some circumstance find themselves serving in the armed forces as a private despite their wealth.
The Old Sexton hits a lighter and more upbeat note, here, along with the closing Last Rose of Summer, the accompaniment becomes more noticeable as if Carthy is making peace with any responsibility or guilt she may feel for prior difficulties.
Restitute is not revolutionary, but it achieves the homely paired down feel that it aims for. Given the unusual circumstances that led to its release it is easy to see Restitute as an anomaly. However over time it is likely to be seen as part of the essential Eliza Carthy, rounding out and adding a new dimension to her music.Christopher C Leslie
Released on Topic Records, February 14, 2019
2. The Leaves in the Woodland
3. Helter Skelter
4. The Man Who Puffs the Big Cigar
5. Gentlemen Rankers
6. The Slave’s Lament / Farewell to a Dark Haired Friend
7. Dream of Napoleon
8. Lady All Skin and Bone
9. The Old Sexton
10. The Last Rose of Summer