04/05/2014 | Martin & Eliza Carthy – The Stables, Milton Keynes

Lisa Ward

With successful solo careers, it’s a joy to see father-daughter duo Martin & Eliza Carthy unite for their latest album The Moral of the Elephant. A trip back into more traditional numbers, tonight they delight both musically and with the anecdotal stories behind each song. Whilst  Happiness is perhaps one of the lighter moments of a set they describe as ‘descending into hell’, their musical dexterity allows the more sombre numbers to retain lighter elements, carrying the set through the night.

Collecting songs from a variety of places, and adding “stuff from [their] heads” to the mix, they deliver the likes of Marina Russell’s Awake Awake, which becomes known as Awake Dreaming once Eliza has added her spin. Meanwhile Martin offers a reworking of The Queen of Hearts, a song which Martin first aired on his debut album. For me, the highlight comes in the form of a tribute to Martin’s brother (and Eliza’s uncle) in Died For Love and The Grand Conversation on Napoleon which lulls the crowd to enough hush that Eliza’s clinking bracelets are allowed to offer  subtle accompaniment.

 Whilst their are a couple of moments where songs are restarted and lyrics are forgotten, the repertoires of Eliza and Martin are so extensive this can be forgiven. Nevertheless it’s not just the music which makes tonight a joy, but the combination of witty anecdotes and the family chemistry which plays out on stage. This is highlighted in Seventeen Come Sunday (the first song they played together) and Blackwell Merry Night which seems them strip the song back to an a cappella sound in the middle to maximum effort. In essence it’s the combination of their familiarity with each other, and their individuality which allows them to deliver a set of traditional folk songs, with a more modern twist.