Fiddler on the hoof

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The Independent Culture
On Eliza Carthy's last record, Dr Marten got a grateful mention, like one of those movie credits, "Miss Taylor's hair designed by...". Ms Carthy's hair is short and red this week; before it was blonde; and before that, long, black and crinkly. Only the boots, earrings and nosewear remain constant. And the way, when she leans her head to her fiddle and sings, she inhabits and animates her music.

She might not look it, but Eliza Carthy is a folk musician, one of a new wave of very young, accomplished performers who have grown up with folk music in their blood and are now seizing the tradition themselves. She remembers the moment she found her vocation: she was 13, singing before 30,000 people at the Vancouver Folk Festival. " 'That's it,' I said, 'I'm going to leave school, and be a folk musician.' A year later, I picked up the fiddle my grandfather left me, and started to learn."

Eliza Carthy's rapid progress is not surprising. Her mother, Norma Waterson, has one of the great voices of the English folk revival, and Martin Carthy, her father, is an enormously influential singer and guitarist. "There's always been a stage nearby," she recalls. "Whether I've been on top of it, asleep underneath it, or leaning against it, it's always been there."

Now, at 20, she's been on the road for years, and is about to release her first solo album, Heat, Light & Sound. She remains exasperated by the way the English have neglected their indigenous music, and her album reveals some of the work being done to revitalise the fiddle repertoire. She's taking her backing band for Heat, Light & Sound on tour. "I've never played with a band before," she confesses, and for the first time her confidence wobbles. "Not a big band, a loud band with drums and stuff." Then she gets her Doc Martens planted again. "It's not folk-rock. It's just me being a bit louder."

JULIAN MAY

Touring to 25 Feb: Rockingham Arms, Wentworth (01709 585977) tonight; Wyeside Arts Centre, Builth Wells Sun; further tour details (01452 700110). 'Heat, Light & Sound' released by Topic Records, 26 Feb

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