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Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin - Mynd (Dragonfly Roots)

Star rating: 
4

To many, the enchanting songs and instrumental aptitude of Devon-based Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin came via support spots for fellow Devonians Show of Hands a couple of years ago. Since then, Phil and Hannah have carved out quite a niche for themselves on the acoustic music scene, not only through their ethereal voices and bucolic stage presence, but also through their utterly charming approach to music making. On top of all this is the duo's command over their respective instruments. Not only is Phil a first rate Dobro player but he also has the ability to make the harmonica talk, and make us all perfectly well aware of what it's saying, whilst Hannah is a fine fiddle player, who also knows a thing or two about the banjo. During the duo's live performances, there's a lot going on and it often seems like there are more musicians on the stage at any given time. 

Phillip and Hannah's second album MYND, apparently old English for memory or remembrance, contains a dozen songs, either original, traditional or revamped with the additional bonus track, a fine take on James Taylor's evergreen You Can Close Your Eyes, a song that occasionally closes their live set. With Hannah taking care of the lyrics for the most part, the songs conjure a sense of the past, mirrored by the artwork, of barren lands and standing stones. The music, drawn from the English landscape, is interspersed with some of Phil's Eastern influences, having studied slide guitar with Debashish Bhattacharya, one of India's foremost musicians in Calcutta. This influence can be found on Phil's own composition Elegy, which was written for and performed at probably the duo's biggest gig thus far, Show of Hands' 20th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where the duo were supporting last Easter.

Full of atmosphere, especially during Hannah's reading of The Banks of the Nile and the two-part arrangement of the traditional The Nailmaker's Strike, the album maintains an almost pastoral mood throughout, even during some of Phil's post-modern beat boxing, which as always, adds a contemporary edge to this duo's fine and remarkable music. 

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky