A Review of the Hilary James & Simon Mayor CD
"Laughing With The Moon"


"Laughing With The Moon"
by Hilary James & Simon Mayor

Acoustics Records CDACS047
Copyright: Acoustics 2004.

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 1/05

Touchingly, Simon Mayor doffs his cap to Hilary James before a note is played.Whereas I had always previously seen them billed as “Simon Mayor & Hilary James”, here, not only does Hilary get precedence, but Simon has the word “with” as a prefix to his name: thus almost relegating him to the status of an accessory!

I jest to a degree.He is of course Britain's foremost mandolin player on the Folk Scene, and is generally considered to be amongst the top three British exponents of the instrument in any genre.

But here, although his mandolin, mandocello, mandola, fiddle and guitar work are as always, impeccable in both their intelligent musicality and their outstanding element of support for the vocals, the fact is that he leaves all lead vocals to Hilary, and so in a very real way it is HER record.

Not that she is a one-trick pony!Au contraire.She is a rival to Simon in the “multi-instrumentalist” game.Here we see her playing guitar, double bass, mandobass and bass guitar!But it is her pellucid delivery of the song lyrics that jump out at you from this record.

Whereas Simon Mayor has an almost clinical way with his playing – never any question of duff or muffled notes: one always gets the impression he has washed his hands in strong disinfectant before he picks up his instrument – Hilary James has the warmest of voices: like she's a nurse who has abandoned “hospital tucks” to spend time holding the hand of the patient.

A voice that one just knows could easily adapt itself to a classical repertoire: but if it ever did, there would never be any danger of her singing opera in that affected way some of the lesser British opera singers adopt.Not to mince words, let me say that Hilary could never sing like she had a feather stuck up her rear end.

This album is a delightful mix of traditional ballad and instrumental. Not a weak track in evidence.The cuts that did it for me were that splendid North American song “Shenandoah” (sung here as a lullaby); a refreshingly faithful version of that old war-horse by Turlough O'Carolan, “Carolan's Concerto”; and above all that fine traditional song “The Shearing's Not For You”, which is one of those rare songs that are deeply affecting WITHOUT them making any apparent deliberate assault on the listener's sensibilities.

Worth buying.Obtainable by mail-order worldwide.Enquire at this address: mail@acousticsrecords.co.uk

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England
daigress@hotmail.com


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