Following his departure from Steeleye Span, Martin Carthy returned to a solo career, with one of his strongest and most varied albums to date. He rips into the traditional material, from the potent "Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries," about a man transported for "crime," to the a cappella "Cruel Mother," one of the most gruesome and unrelenting ballads ever passed down. But there's also a smattering of contemporary music, from David Ackles' barren "His Name Is Andrew" to John Kirkpatrick's "Dust to Dust," about...death. Not exactly all light and joy here, then, but Carthy has such a way with a song that it never seems like unrelenting misery. Especially wonderful are "Cold Haily Windy Night" and "The Broomfield Hill," the latter a song that occurs with many titles, and may be the only playful piece here. It features some inspiring guitar work -- a reminder of just how excellent Carthy can be on the fretboard, and that he tends to make everything subservient to the song itself, pushing its meaning across. But he doesn't rely on the strings to back him -- Carthy's equally comfortable stripping a song all the way down and singing unaccompanied. He's an all-rounder, and this album simply confirms him as one of modern music's great interpreters, a man unafraid of chances and challenges.