The Watchmaker's Wife
When it comes to folk musicians Miranda Sykes is among the most respected female performers, a position she has earned by hard work, an abundance of talent and, seemingly, being almost everywhere.
|Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston|
Preston holds his own grandeur as being among the most highly rated mandolin players around and together they are a formidable force of folk.
Even though they have only been a duo for six years it seems much longer and The Watchmaker's Wife is their third studio album together.
It has to be noted that it's not the most likely of pairings with the double bass and the mandolin but such is the talent of Sykes and Preston, they make it work. What's more remarkable is the album was recorded in her sitting room.
The title and opening track straight away introduces us to Sykes' silky tones which is brought in on top of Preston's mandolin. It's Preston who provides the harmonies as well as the definite backing with his distinctive strings. Not only does Sykes provide the lyrics but also the growling bass which takes the song out. It's Preston's turn to open proceedings as they switch roles with S.A.D from Boo Hewerdine. Preston's voice adds a nice contrast and it has a harder edge than Sykes. The interval gives you a chance to really appreciate how they blend the deep resonance of the double bass with the light, in comparison, almost tinny sound of the mandolin. Preston's songwriting talents are on display with Rosie which is dotted with effects and has a very contemporary feel to it. It could easily be passed off as a track from The Levellers.
|Miranda and her signature double bass|
They borrow the next track Swedish from Blazin Fiddles and the gentle instrumental has both the light of Preston's playing and depth of Sykes'. It's a beautifully executed piece and one of the real treats on an album of fascinating tracks.
Sykes' creamy tones come back for the traditional song of lost love in Bonnie Light Horseman. She has such a precision in her singing which gives the lament a real depth of emotion. Going to the West is remarkably close to Annie Lennox's Into The West which was used for one of the soundtracks on the Lord of the Rings. It's obviously a different song but the style Sykes' adopts gives the song a real familiarity and the stripped down ballad works extremely well.
Leaving Song sort of creeps up on you with Preston showing his laid back style for his composition. This laconic ballad is a very thoughtful song and the way Preston sings it, he makes it sound very personal.
|The new album|
Sykes takes out the album with Exile's Return and more than any other track you get to hear just how incredibly her voice is, it is so smooth and she weaves up and down the scale with such ease making every syllable count.
This album is Sykes and Preston and very little else and such is their respective talents that nothing or anyone else is needed. They have taken just their voices and their instruments, got together in a sitting room and produced an album that is complex without being inaccessible, thoughtful without being pretentious and enjoyable throughout.
The Watchmaker's Wife is out now released through Hands On Music.