When a couple, and they are a couple in the romantic sense, win the Radio2 Folk Award for Best Duo you expect something special on their albums and Mynd doesn't disappoint. It has a wonderfully understated opening in Silbury Hill with the gentle banjo picking of Phillip Henry and then Hannah Martin's voice slides in like a silk scarf over a crystal ball.
|Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin receiving the Best Duo award|
If this sounds poncy or pretentious then give it a try for yourself.
Without doubt the highlight of the album is The Nailmakers Strike Pt 1 & 2 again with the gentle lead in of the soothing guitar picking of Henry and the soft slide of the bow across the fiddle strings produce a luxurious sound which eventually drops and then feed you a more raucous sound which comes in as the harmonica rasps almost like a train chugging past your window.
Henry almost gives the harmonica a voice and the cadence emulates the beat of the hammers you would expect to hear in a nailmaker's shop which more often than not would be some poor beggar's home where the whole family would work away for a pittance making nails.
The song is adapted from a traditional song Poverty Knock which was covered by Chumbawamba on their English Rebel Songs album. Henry and Martin take the traditional and weave strands of the modern, including beatbox and reggae, into it to great effect.
|Chumbawamba's rebel songs|
Martin's viola opens Thirty Miles with such a mournful, lamenting sound and feels like it came right out of the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou? This is another of the tracks where Henry provides the main vocals.
The Last Broadcast is where you get to really hear the influences Henry picked up during his time in India and learning the native music. He uses the sounds sparingly but it's such an exotic sound that you feel you want more. Henry's skill on strings is shown to full effect and listening to his luscious playing is like a musical journey around the world.
The hypnotic intro to Elegy is a little like Ravi Shankar meets Ry Cooder and has that haunting quality you hear in the sitar guru's playing or the intros to films such as Southern Comfort or Paris, Texas. It genuinely is the kind of sound you could listen to all day long, it's like a hot bath made of music.
|Ry Cooder's |
Henry leads you in with slide guitar to where you think this may just pick up into the traditional and jaunty hornpipe but it never materialises, instead it slides into Martin's lonesome calling before Henry again takes over with a guitar interlude. This is such a simple song where the duo use their talents in a minimalistic way to fantastic effect.
The much lighter Miss Willmott's Ghost brings in the understated sound of the banjo and runs a thread behind Martin's voice with a harmonica, just enough to give it that bluegrass/mountain feel without it sliding too much into Americana.
Waterland is a really ethereal song told by a will o the wisp and is one of those wonderful narrative songs rooted in the people of the land which inspired it and really deserves to be turned into a short film or animation using the song as the soundtrack.
|Henry & Martin's album|
Mynd comes with a bonus track Close Your Eyes. Which is a lovely light lullaby-style song in which Henry takes on the vocals and Martin adds the harmonies. Fans of the duo will recognise it because it's one of their favourite closing songs for their live shows.
Mynd, which is an old word for mind, is aptly titled because these songs will stick in yours.
Mynd is out on the Dragonfly Roots label.
|The Mike Harding Folk Show|