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Asha McCarthy - Epitaph

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 8 / 12 / 2021

Asha McCarthy - Epitaph
Label: Asha McCarthy
Format: CD


Fantastic debut album from Asha McCarthy whose cello-playing fusion of Indian, Western and folk music coupled with outstanding vocals is breathtaking

There are not many albums when the listener has absolutely no idea what to expect even if it is a debut by that artist. There’s usually a little we’ve heard about their music to give at least a clue what to expect. But Asha McCarthy was a complete unknown round these parts. A little research revealed that a single, ‘Belong’, was issued earlier this year and an initial listen revealed a thing of rare beauty. The closing lines of ‘Pachamama’ and ‘Bhumi Devi’ (after a little research by the uneducated in these matters like yours truly) reveal references to an Earth Mother type Goddess, which given the overall ethereal feel of the song felt quite appropriate. The song bodes well for a fascinating journey through ‘Epitaph’, Asha’s debut seven-track album, which doesn’t include that single. Initial thoughts were that ‘Epitaph’ was going to be an extended version of that remarkable single, a song that really does take the listener on a journey and which although encouraging a calming and reflective frame of mind due to the outstanding vocal and instrumental backing, seems to be inspired by a traumatic period in Asha’s life; the birth of her daughter and the experiences of postnatal problems. But the seven pieces on the album, although connected in some way, all offer a fresh and different slant on what went before. But it’s not just a collection of musical pieces for mothers who have suffered trails and tribulations; there’s so much to discover in these songs and the overall feeling the listener experiences means ‘Epitaph’ is going to appeal to a very wide audience. Asha’s music takes in mainly North Indian and Western classical and combines them with a healthy does of folk music. The results are, at times, breathtaking. Playing cello, viola, guitars as well as shaker, dholak ( a hand drum) and combining these instruments with her breathy yet clear vocals sets Asha’s music apart from the rest alone, add Misha Mullov Abbado’s skill on bass and it’s clear that something special is happening here. ‘Drift’ opens the album, the combination of Asha’s acoustic guitar and cello instantly touching home and demanding the listener’s attention simply because it’s like nothing else you’ve heard all year. It’s a beautiful piece; without the vocals it would be attention grabbing but once Asha’s dreamy vocals come in and those harmonies float around the listener is lost in the music totally. It’s a lovely and brilliant way to open the album. The title song is split into two parts. 'Part One' is a relatively short instrumental piece dominated by cello and guitar with waves lapping on the beach, it’s a beautiful, relaxing piece which segues into ‘Epitaph Part Two’ which expands on''Part One' with Asha’s beautifully delivered vocals injecting an even bigger Indian influence. The tempo rises and falls and those harmonies can’t fail to keep the listener entranced. Just when you’d thought you’d listened to one of the most beautiful pieces of music you’d heard all year along comes ‘Love Surrounds You’, again dominated by both cello and guitar, Asha’s vocals and harmonies on this track are simply stunning. Mention should also be made of Abbado’s bass playing here; although outstanding throughout, on this track it’s particularly noticeable. When Danny Thompson readily springs to mind someone is doing something right. There’s not any filler in sight; each track has its own merits and although the songs flow into each other perfectly there is no suggestion that any two songs are repeated, not even those two that share the title name. Despite some of the subject matter or inspiration behind the songs the album as a whole is an uplifting experience, it’s certainly on one of the most captivating sets of the year and definitely one of the most beautifully sung and played. Here’s hoping for more from this immensely talented musician.

Track Listing:-
1 Drift
2 Epitaph Pt. 1
3 Epitaph Pt. 2
4 Love Surrounds You
5 All New
6 Trust
7 'Til Dawn

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