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Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston - Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston (Hands On Music)

Star rating: 
4

Co-produced by Rex Preston and Joe Rusby, Miranda Sykes and Rex's self-titled debut album as a duo opens with a song written by Joe's sister Kate, Old Man Time, which appeared on Rusby's debut solo album way back in 1997. With a delicate touch, Miranda bows her double bass whilst Rex embellishes each phrase with his dextrous command over the mandolin, bringing a new sound to our ears. If at first our expectations were slightly suspicious as to precisely what a double bass/mandolin combination would sound like, our fears are quashed before the end of the opening song, which concludes with an arrangement reminiscent of Pachelbel's baroque Canon. That's how well it works.

Miranda chooses wisely on this album, bringing new arrangements to such engaging contemporary British material as Karine Polwart's Only One Way, which includes such memorable lines as 'you can't believe a man would lie through such nice teeth', to our American songwriting cousins, Patty Griffin's Rain and Slaid Cleaves One Good Year. Swapping the giant four stringed instrument for a tiny one, Miranda gleefully strums the ukulele whilst revisiting Sweet Pea/Mean to Me, originally released on the SWEET PEA EP (2010). It is however with Miranda's almost ethereal vocal performance on Imogen Heap's Between Sheets that makes the listener sit up and listen. 

Taking lead vocals on a couple of songs, Rex shows his versatility with the traditional A Kiss in the Morning Early and the Ryan Roberts song Love is Not a Flower. 4am meanwhile reveals an understanding of his chosen instrument, with an inventive mandolin instrumental, which sleepily evokes the darkest hour just before dawn.  

Meeting in 2009 when Miranda guested with Rex's band the Scoville Units, the duo have since discovered a sublime musical empathy, which has proved to work tremendously well in both intimate live settings and now on record too. With both musicians having busy schedules throughout the year in each of their respective projects, it is hoped that MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON will be followed up in due course with something equally appealling.  

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky