Martin & Eliza Carthy – The Moral of the Elephant

It’s nearly 50 years since Martin Carthy recorded his iconic, eponymous first album and more than 20 years since his daughter Eliza Carthy’s recording debut. Throughout their respective careers both have toured and recorded with many others (Eliza shared the bill with her acclaimed mother, Norma Waterson, on their award-winning ‘Gift’ album in 2010) but finally, this trail-blazing father and daughter have made their first ever duo album, ‘The Moral of the Elephant’ (Topic Records, 2nd June 2014).

The new album features 11 (mostly) traditional music tracks, including ‘The Elephant’, on which the title of the album is based. It’s an interpretation of a 19th poem by John Godfrey Saxe, which itself is an adaptation of an ancient Indian parable.

Produced by Oliver Knight (Lal Waterson’s son) with Martin and Eliza, the duo reinterpret and revisit a number of songs on this new album. ‘Bonny Moorhen’ is about a fight between starving lead miners and a gang representing the landowners. Martin learnt ‘The Grand Conversation on Napoleon’ from the Vaughan Williams collection at Cecil Sharp House, the home of the English Folk Dance & Song Society. This was one of many songs by the English proclaiming their love of Napoleon who they hoped would rescue them from poverty. ‘Monkey Hair’ is a song by late Michael Marra about a Scottish minister’s wife who doesn’t want any more children as her husband keeps sending them off to war to be killed. Fittingly, several of the songs on ‘The Moral of the Elephant’ take the form of conversation between parent and child.

Martin Carthy, who turns 75 in May this year, still regularly tours the UK, but his recordings are becoming increasingly rare. Meanwhile, Eliza Carthy is the only folk musician to have been nominated twice for a prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Between them, father and daughter have innumerable accolades. Martin Carthy, MBE, recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014. The ceremony was held at the Royal Albert Hall, where Martin received his award from fan, Jarvis Cocker. Martin and Eliza then performed, ‘Died for Love’ (a trad song, also on the new album, arranged by and dedicated to, Mike Waterson).

Label: Topic Records
Catalogue Number: TSCD587
Release Date: 2 June 2014