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MCNEILL & HEYS - Any Other Morning

MCNEILL & HEYS - Any Other Morning
Transition Records TRANSCD08

I can probably count on my own two hands those artists whose output I have eagerly acquired in full. One digit would represent this duo whose fourth release reveals even greater assuredness in its refinement, atmosphere and intense intimacy. Pared back to their essence of Jack McNeill’s intricate guitar playing and distinctive vocal timbre and delivery interwound with Charlie Heys’ exquisite fiddle work, they also each add some discreet clarinet, bass clarinet, harmonium, banjo and glockenspiel.

With the exception of an arrangement of Phil Gaston’s song Navigator, the music and lyrics are all self composed. What We Remember, an extended piece about Proustian memory du temps perdu – getting ‘the old stories to surrender’ – and the long title track exemplify their present confidence and idiomatic individuality. Rather than simply songs, these are poetic pieces, emotively expressed and delivered, both lyrically and musically, through moods and movement with thoughtful space and pace. The alluring word stories are again charged with an enigmatic edge within the context of what Jack has referred to as their ‘shape-shifting sound’, an engagingly irregular form of creative sequencing resulting from very precise and careful crafting.

Richly inspired by the metamorphic and metaphorical overtones of a cloud inversion (the final track) which “can almost magically alter our perspective on a landscape, allowing us to dream”, their confidence in exploring and elegantly attuning the elemental in nature and humanity is now so profound as to mark them out as very special and original indeed. The cover image of them minutely silhouetted against the expansive skyscape of Glen Coe is a befitting reflection on the haunting melodic nature of what they have now established as their own personal music landscape.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.