Album: Eliza Carthy, Dreams of Breathing Underwater (Topic)

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The Independent Culture

Eliza Carthy has been one of the more redoubtable modernisers of folk music over the past decade or two, with albums like Angels & Cigarettes and appearances on projects such as last year's The Imagined Village helping shunt the singer-songwriter genre in intriguing new directions.

Too often here, though, the results don't seem worth the effort. Tracks start out with simple settings but are quickly loaded with a welter of incongruent baggage: the angry "Like I Care" begins as cajun swamp-funk, acquires a reggae guitar offbeat, then takes every available twist and turn away from the song; "Mr Magnifico", a thin tale of a lecherous drifter, piles up flamenco handclaps, fluttering fiddle, and concertina behind a jazz trumpet which opts to muddy things further by adopting a mariachi mode.

There seems little point in so perversely avoiding the more obviously pleasurable harmonies and melodic turns, as she does in the grating "Simple Things". Why choose ugly over pretty?

Pick of the album:'Lavenders', 'Two Tears', 'Rows of Angels'