Folk music is an acquired taste. Like most outlier genres it has its periods of flirtation with the mainstream (Bellowhead) as well as periods where the mainstream flirts with it (Mumford and Sons) but largely it exists as its own separate entity with a small but dedicated following, allowing the artists to create and flourish away from both the praise and the condemnation of the media. I cannot claim to be a true folky but nor am I completely novice, I find I like a lot of individual songs by a lot of artists but I’m rarely blown away by entire albums. Big Machine is very much the exception to the rule. From the second the album kicks in it sounds huge, like Bellowhead before them this is folk with everything turned up to 11, but there is a darkness here; a hard, sinister quality that adds depth and contrast to a beautiful collection of songs. This is defiantly folk music, as opposed to folk-rock, but if such a thing as heavy folk exists then this is it.
The cast of musicians is large and – as befits Carthy’s status in one of British folk’s great dynasties – of the highest quality. Guests include fellow scion Teddy Thompson on the marvellous Hug You Like a Mountain and MC Dizraeli who adds a hip hop flavour to You Know Me. The latter feels like it shouldn’t work or at least stick out like a sore thumb on the album but it doesn’t, and the fluidity of the record as a whole raises Big Machine from being a collection of very good songs to a truly great piece of work. Highly recommended.