Many artists attempt this sort of melange of styles and sources but few do it with the panache of Hilary James and Simon Mayor. The titular sisters are Hilary and Janet Giraudo but Simon must be mentioned sooner rather than later simply because he’s the whole of the orchestra with Hilary’s guitar and bass and a little added percussion from Simon Price.
The album opens with John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ in a new setting by Mayor followed by the 30s hit ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’ in sparkling ragtime style. Next comes ‘Auberge Au Crépuscule’, a French tango from the same period. Janet has lived in Provence for many years and both sisters sing in French like natives. From here the net is cast even wider. ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ is followed by a French baroque song, an excerpt from Vivaldi’s Gloria and a traditional English song. The ragtime classic ‘Hot Time In The Old Time Tonight’ follows ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ and the record finishes with a Provençal carol and another English traditional song, ‘My Faithful Johnny’ collected from a Singing Together book – hands up if you remember those! Actually, there is a bonus track but I’m not going there.
Some might find this all a bit sweet, maybe even a touch twee, and in less capable hands I might agree but you have to consider the élan and the pleasure with which it’s done. The arrangements (by Mayor) are detailed without being overwhelming – there’s a delightful violin solo on ‘I Live Not Where I Love’, for example, which keeps the melody intact but teases with classical hints. Songs & Chansons is an album for listening in the garden with a pitcher of Pimms and the petits fours to hand.
Artists’ website: www.twosisters.eu
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