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:

Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston – new album

Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston The Watchmaker's Wife

After spending most of the summer recording their eagerly awaited third album – The Watchmaker’s Wife – Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston will undertake a run of UK tour dates in September showcasing tracks from the new album, due for release in the spring of 2016, along with performing material from their back catalogue.

In the space of just a few years, Miranda and Rex have emerged to become one of the most sought after duos on the English folk/roots scene. The striking combination of the flame headed double bass player and virtuoso mandolin player create music that fRoots magazine sums up perfectly: “A musical partnership made in heaven. Scintillating, sensitive and brilliant.” The duo have a unique connection, which is a pleasure to watch when they share the stage together.

Well known for the last eleven years as a central component of Show of Hands, Miranda has an exquisite and spine-tingling voice, whilst Rex, with his exuberant and flamboyant playing style, has built a reputation as one of the finest mandolin players in the UK. The rare fusion of double bass & mandolin makes for one of the most exciting new pairings on the acoustic roots scene. Miranda & Rex interweave timeless, well chosen covers with one or two Preston originals. Their backgrounds, as well as skilful instrumentation & warm engaging vocals have shaped their unique sound.

Artists’ website: www.sykespreston.com