MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON – HANDS ON MUSIC HMCD035

Miranda and Rex play together in other Celtic bluegrass projects. Miranda is, of course, well known as the third member of Show Of Hands and Rex is a rising star in mandolin-playing circles, working with Cara Dillon and Brian Finnegan.

It’s clear from the start that their backgrounds have shaped their debut album together. The songs are mostly covers with one original instrumental and a traditional arrangement from Rex. The first two songs are by Kate Rusby and Karine Polwart – the latter being a gorgeous gently rocking version of ‘Only One Way’ – and from the first few notes you know that this is something rather special. The sound is incredibly rich and I searched in vain for a list of guest musicians. There is a guitar in there and I’m guessing that Rex plays it but top marks for production whoever it is.

Later writer credits might be unfamiliar unless you’re deeply immersed in American roots songwriters. Karin Bergquist, Ryan Roberts and Peter Bradley Adams are not exactly household names in the UK so Miranda and Rex have had their pick of some fine songs. Miranda’s voice is flexible and expressive from the delicacy of ‘Between Sheets’ to the jazziness of ‘Sweet Pea/Mean To Me’ and ‘Trouble’ and you can only marvel at Rex’s playing. From simple ingredients Miranda and Rex have created an exceptionally good album.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist Web link: www.mirandasykes.com