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The Imagined Village

The Sage, Gateshead

19 November 2007

Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Billy Bragg, Chris Wood, Simon Emerson, Sheila Chandra, Benjamin Zephaniah, and others.

Absolutely fantastic album. Can't recommend it highly enough. Superb live show — there are a couple of dates left on the tour and I really recommend going to one.

Here's what the hype says:

"Arguably the most ambitious re-invention of the English folk tradition since Fairport Convention’s Liege And Lief."

You know what? It totally lives up to the hype. The album is worthy of the Liege And Lief comparison, and seeing it performed live just takes it to another level. I went to the show before hearing the album, not really knowing what to expect. I thought it would be interesting, with hopefully a few good tunes (and I was confident that you can't go wrong with both Carthys on one stage), and I ended up blown away by the whole thing from beginning to end.

So what is it? Well... it's English folk songs updated for the 21st century. Exactly what it says on the tin.

It's multi-cultural, with sitars alongside fiddles alongside electric guitars.

It's multi-styled, with traditional acoustic folk alongside folk rock alongside dance club beats.

It shows that folk music is still relevant today, because we're still basically the same people with the same problems as we always have been.

And it shows how folk music is meant to live and change (as it always has) to reflect real people's lives. So for example the lyrics of Tam Lyn Retold are about a girl falling in love with an asylum seeker, and it loses none of the power of the traditional narrative and the retelling doesn't seem sacrilegious at all.

And that's just the album. The stage show includes all that plus humour, history, nostalgia, a film about a dog, and an ornithology quiz. Eleven people on stage, multiple singers and instruments in every combination you can think of, fantastic performances from everyone, a perfectly polished yet still somehow spontaneous show, and a great atmosphere.

Go. Buy the album. See the show. Be amazed.

It's what music is supposed to be like.