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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Carthy's search for musical roots

by Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Mercury nominee Eliza Carthy talks to BBC News Online about her hopes of re-educating people about the roots of British music.

Roots are vitally important to folk musician Eliza Carthy.

Her music is very much centered on the roots of English music and her own roots, parents and legendary folk musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, have given her a unique perspective.

Eliza Carthy
Eliza Carthy is a Mercury regular
Her public image, brightly-coloured dyed hair and a pierced lower lip, reveal a person who is constantly breaking down barriers.

In her latest album, she is attacking those barriers again.

"It is a very focused record - as a far as a folk album goes it has real purpose and is a restatement of English roots."

Roots music has grown in popularity of late, with the US bluegrass soundtrack to the Coen brothers' film O Brother Where Art Thou selling well across the globe.

On Anglicana, Carthy is interested in exploring what could happen to English music if it was more in touch with its roots.

"We would make completely different music today if people knew about their roots," argues Carthy.

Some people think the UK is America-lite - but it isn't
Eliza Carthy

A quick listen to many of the acts in the British charts reveals many UK singers or bands who would not sound out of place in the US.

Unsurprisingly, given the impact of American blues music on contemporary singers in the UK in the formative 1950s, much of Britain's music is US-centric.

"Blues music is great. But I think if we were to start from a different point, our roots music rather than American blues music, we would have a singular voice."

'Own voice'

Carthy cites singers such as Ian Dury and Billy Bragg, and last year's Mercury nominee The Streets, as being in touch with an "authentic English voice".

"They all have very strong, very different music. They stand out from the crowd. I need to hear someone speaking with their own voice."

Find out more about the 12 nominees

Although she hopes to influence people, and to some extent re-educate people, she recognises there is no "revolution" coming.

With her new record, Carthy says she is "looking to excite people who will be excited by this".

"They are people who do not want to sound like someone from Detroit but from Manchester."

She accuses some in the music industry of "living in a fantasy world".

"Some people think the UK is America-lite. But it isn't. The songs I hear are not ours. That is not where I live."

She is something of a veteran of the Mercury music awards.

Her nomination for album Anglicana is her second Mercury nod and she has appeared at the awards ceremony on a third occasion playing in her mother's band.

"I'm very excited and it's amazing to be nominated twice," she says.

Her Mercury nomination, she says, will help her career.

"I see it as another step on the long staircase - hopefully up. But at least straight across."


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