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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, April 25, 2005
    Eliza's Hymns Ancient and Modern
     
    "He was trapped in a haircut he no longer believed in
    She said "I'm a teacher here. I teach the children."
    And he wondered to himself then and there the things he could learn from her
    A great mighty wonder"


    I know those words ... they're good ol' Bill Bragg's. But this is Eliza singing King James Version, breathing through it the strongest north-country soul we devotees have become so accustomed to.

    "Seems like nothing goes right
    For the world that we were born in
    But the horizon is bright
    Yonder comes the morning"


    At times on her new album she sounds very like her mum. Which is no bad thing. But the sprightly instrumentation and sassy reinvention of lost English ballads are all her own. It's called Rough Music after an old country style of community punishment, where errant familes would be literally drummed out of town by a midnight orchestra of locals bashing pots, pans, tin lids, buckets (according to The Book of Days). That doesn't reflect on the beautiful music she makes, but it does inform her devotion to singing songs which tell truths, even if they're often ugly truths.

    Her sleevenotes offer an alternative reading of the phrase in which "Rough Music is also a term for music that doesn't necessarily conform to the metronome that stretches, that beats with humans."

    Eliza's is a strange music for - perhaps - a new time. Hymns Ancient and Modern, offering richly celebratory alternatives to the dull discourse of daily life:

    "Looks like a drift to the Right
    For the world we were born in
    But the horizon is bright
    Yonder comes the morning"