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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews A Handful of Sky by Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

I have to admit that until I received this CD for review I'd never heard of Nick or Becki probably because they are based in the south-west and seldom venture this far north. This is a pity because, based on this album's performance, I'm sure they would please audiences here in the north-west. They are both teachers of their instruments, violin and viola, and work extensively with The Folk Orchestra of North Devon and at Halsway Manor which gives you an idea of their pedigree.

They kick off with an interesting Devon version of Rambleaway collected by Baring-Gould in which Nick takes the lead vocals. There follows a set of traditional jigs which aptly shows their excellent instrumental skills. The title track, is also an instrumental called A Handful of Sky and was composed for a tour they did with The Angel Brothers. This is yet another fine piece of music and playing. A song The Cornwall Apprentice follows and then two lilting hornpipes in which Becky gets to play her 'second' instrument the bassoon! Becky then takes the lead vocal in a Dorset version of The Cruel Mother. My personal opinion is that this is probably the weakest track on the album because although Becky is a superb instrumentalist her singing voice, though tuneful, comes across as a little weak.

Interestingly from a northern perspective the slow tune Bridge House was composed by Becky whilst living in that place which is a dilapidated mansion on the edge of Sefton Park when she was studying community music in Liverpool a number of years ago. More tunes follow the song The Torrington Ringers in which the melody is based on a six bell peal. The album finishes with Becky leading the vocals (more forcefully this time!) on The Exmoor Ram a local version of the well known song.

This is a classy album and I can heartily recommend it to all you traditional music enthusiasts. Let's hope that Becky and Nick will make it to some northern gigs as I'd like to hear their live performances.

The album comes with the usual Wild Goose package of comprehensive sleeve notes and some fine photography and art work on the cover from Hilary Bix. It's available from Wild Goose, Proper Music Distribution or from Nick and Becky's own web site www.englishfiddle.com