In my last post, I mentioned a compilation of Pete Seeger songs that introduced me to new musicians. The song “My Father’s Mansions” was not only my first exposure to Billy Bragg, but Eliza Carthy as well. Carthy plays a dark little fiddle tune underneath Billy Bragg’s somber singing–a memorable cover. So when I found her CD Angels & Cigarettes at one of my favorite used CD shops, I didn’t hesitate picking it up. With the opening track “Whispers of Summer,” I was excited by the upbeat, folksy vibe that encouraged me to dance.
Angels & Cigarettes fits in my collection with alt singer-songwriters like Jane Siberry, Eddi Reader & Melanie Doane. This is music for the cynical girl searching for some heart. Her songs competently mix pop, electronic, folk and orchestral elements. “Wild Wood” is a great example.
Carthy has a mature, interesting voice that belies her youthful appearance and brash looks. And her lyrics are smart & provocative. One notable track is “The Company of Men,” a pop song that’s masquerading as a standard from an older film. (A sort of reverse of Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet.”) If you didn’t listen carefully, you’d miss her admission “And I’ve sat and listened for hours/To boys I’m not sure I liked/My evenings have passed me by/A confusion of lies and loose flies.” Another, “Poor Little Me,” is an atmospheric song that would do Sarah McLachlan or Melanie Doane proud.
My problem with Angels & Cigarettes is the same I had with Merril Bainbridge’s In the Garden. Carthy’s CD is well-crafted and has an interesting enough sound. I want to like it, especially since it fits with a lot of stuff I already have. But, I often forget that I have it & as a whole, the CD does inspire that same feeling like most music I love & keep. The “I didn’t know I was missing this!” feeling that sinks its hooks in and makes any CD irreplaceable.
So, with more than a tinge of regret, I’m letting Angels & Cigarettes go, not because it isn’t good music, but because I just can’t get more attached. I would definitely recommend Carthy to other curious audiophiles & I may check out her other CDs in the future. But for now, we’re on a break.