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MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON - The Watchmaker’s Wife

MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON - The Watchmaker’s Wife
Hands On Music HMCD40

Now in their sixth year of working together, this third studio album from Miranda Sykes (vocals, double bass) and Rex Preston (vocals, mandolin, bouzouki, tenor guitar) should deservedly enhance further their reputation and renown as one of the best duos operating on the contemporary folk scene.

Two instrumentals (Blazin’ Fiddles’ Swedish and a waltz composition by Rex) sit amidst nine songs. Some are arrangements of traditional pieces (Good Natured Man, Bonnie Light Horseman), others of contemporary work (such as Tony Furtado’s Waste Of The Moon and John Doyle’s Exile’s Return). The clever title song is a collaborative venture with Boo Hewerdine (wrongly credited, incidentally, as having involved Chris Difford) about temporal heartache, invested lyrically and musically with an assuredly certain catchiness - his touch is so cold and his soul never sings, how can he make such beautiful things. Of the two original songs written by Rex, the sadness tinged lament Leaving Song is particularly plaintive and moving.

Captured it seems “on location in Miranda’s sitting room”, the intimate acoustic feel and quality of the recording is excellent in its crispness and clarity. Consequently the considerable tonal textures and rhythmic range of their instruments, which interplay so well, are expertly realised. Miranda’s double bass, both plucked and bowed, is a deeply expressive backdrop to Rex’s higher strings’ virtuoso flights of picking and rhythmically percussive presence. Subtly sophisticated twists in the melodies and movement of the material are very rewarding in their interest and show, with their vocal harmonising, considerable musical intelligence and symbiotic experience.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.