MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON – The Watchmaker’s Wife (Hands On Music HMCD40)

The Watchmaker's WifeWhen I last heard Show Of Hands I couldn’t help but note Miranda Sykes’ contribution to their sound. Not just her double bass playing but particularly her voice and I felt that she should be better known in her own right. The Watchmaker’s Wife is her third album with Rex Preston and the duo is as delicately balanced as a fine watch with each supporting and reinforcing the other.

The title track, written by Miranda and Rex with Chris Difford is a perfect exemplar of what the album is about. How much is drawn from Sonia Taitz’s book, The Watchmaker’s Daughter isn’t spelled out but there are distinct parallels in the dichotomy of the man whose marriage seems loveless leaving his wife to ask “how can he make such beautiful things?”.

Miranda steps into the spotlight again with ‘Bonny Light Horseman’, a beautifully natural reading of the song in which she is the calm at the heart of the storm of Rex’s musical flourishes. Rex tones it down a bit for ‘Going To The West’ which immediately follows it and, for the first time, gives us two of his own songs, ‘Rosie’, a slightly quirky not-love song, and ‘Leaving Song’ which needs no further explanation.

There are two instrumental sets: ‘Swedish’, from Blazin’ Fiddles and Rex’s brilliantly titled ‘(Insert Name)’s Waltz’ and finally Miranda takes the lead on John Doyle’s ‘Exile’s Return’ with just enough Irish in her voice so that, once again, her singing sounds perfectly natural. The Watchmaker’s Wife is a fine album but one which requires thought and attention from the listener.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.sykespreston.com

‘The Watchmaker’s Wife’ live: