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Jack Mc Neill & Charlie Heys - Light up all the beacons

Jack Mc Neill & Charlie Heys
Light up all the beacons
Fellside Recordings FECD213

Entirely compelling and captivating, at times magical, recording from young acoustic duo, performing together since 2007, who first came to my attention as finalists in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards. Currently studying Classical music at the Birmingham Conservatoire (where they perform in the Folk Ensemble), they’ve recorded eleven of Jack’s highly individual and personal songs. His deft and melodic guitar style is a delight in itself (it’s worth pursuing his debut solo collection Before I’m Home too). Female accomplice Charlie’s fiddle accompaniment blends symbiotically with warmth and empathy; the arranged fusion of their twin skill set is very appealing. Jack’s voice has a very mature quality and an unusual timbre which is full of character.  His songs are very interesting, intelligent and poetic, largely personal and experiential (inspired by nature, family and friends).  They are punctuated with some arresting imagery and phrasing. Devoid of cliché, the lyrics include skilful alliteration and rhyme along with particularly imaginative and acute observations on nature.

This is excellent contemporary acoustic music with evident roots but clear originality and character.  The musicianship is inspiring, a great achievement for two young artists. The dynamic range of moods and tones is striking; at times spiky and sparse, at others mellow and mellifluous, then brisk and urgent. Sleeve notes clearly equate wine with musical inspiration (and a credit to Joe Broughton to that effect).   Highly recommended – surely enormous potential.

Kevin T Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.