30 years into her career as a recording artist, Eliza Carthy set out to make an album that saw her and longtime collaborators Saul Rose and David Delarre stretch themselves musically and get away from the well known repertoire with which they have become some of the most highly regarded names on the folk circuit.
Conversations We’ve Had Before is only a slightly tongue in cheek album title then. For their first recording in this lineup, the trio have gleaned from friends, books and recordings a number of less often heard songs and tunes (largely) from the traditional English canon.
That said, there is the feeling of eavesdropping on discussion between the three musicians. Not just from the way the count-ins at the start of tracks have been kept on the finished recording, but the close mutual understanding shown by the trio. This allows them to vary the dynamic level, rhythm and tempo of tracks with skill and ease, whether on the lopsided Pecket’s Black Mary or as the Cheshire Rolling Hornpipe accelerates towards its conclusion.
Knife In The Window features ripping fiddle and ribald vocals from Carthy alongside Rose’s signature fulsome melodeon that combines to sound like much more than just three people.
Behind it all, Delarre’s guitar acts as pacemaker whether with tight and vigorous strumming such as on Love Lane or taking on a more melodic role on fingerpicked numbers such as The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green.
The intimate feel of the album is complemented by sparing but effective use of the studio, especially the layered backing vocals on tracks such as Golden Slumbers that give the simple melody liftoff on a lush version of the ancient lullaby that knocks Paul McCartney’s version into a cocked hat. Or the opposite effect on Bird in The Bush where the stabs and swells of multitracked vocals are set against foreboding melodeon bass notes, octave fiddle and muted guitar, giving a dark subtext to the liaison between the three milkmaids and a young man.
For all its stated aim of breaking new ground, the biggest success of Conversations We’ve Had Before is how it marries the verve, swagger and sense of freewheeling fun on Carthy’s earlier work with a richness of tone and texture that speaks to all three performers’ decades of collective experience. A musical conversation we hope the trio will keep having for us all to listen in on and enjoy.Nick Brook
Self released July 4th 2023 digitally.
1. Knife In The Window
2. Avington Pond / Mrs Casey
3. The Blind Beggar Of Bethnal Green
4. Pecket’s Black Mary / Love Lane
5. The Spanish Lady’s Love / Planxty Charles Coote
6. Away My Brave Boys
7. The Message
8. Sword Dance / Cheshire Rolling Hornpipe
9. Go From My Window / Whitefriars Hornpipe
10. Golden Slumbers
11. Bird In The Bush
12. The Light Of Other Days