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Jacqueline Patten of EDS

reviews A Handful of Sky by Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll are highly respected fiddle-players, composers and performers whose roots are firmly in Devon from where they often draw creative inspiration. The material for this album, however, has been sourced from, or inspired by, places far and wide. Just over half of the tracks are instrumental. Three of them are their own compositions, including the title track, ‘A Handful of Sky’, which was written for a project in Doncaster. Of the other self composed tunes, ‘Bridge House’ is an evocative tune written at a haunted house in which Becki stayed on the edge of Sefton Park, Liverpool, while ‘Terra da Lua’ transports the listener to Brazil and was inspired by a visit that Becki made to see relatives there. The latter is partnered by ‘John of Paris’, taken from a Lincolnshire manuscript, a combination that works amazingly well. The final, recently composed track is a light-hearted tune by Nick, ‘Mrs Lovett’s Pies,’ inspired by Sweeney Todd, and twinned with ‘The Prince of Arabia’. Other instrumental items include two hornpipes, a set of jigs, and two country dance tunes.

Both the opening and closing tracks are songs, with ‘Rambleaway’, an arrangement of a song in the Baring-Gould collection opening the album and ‘The Exmoor Ram’ concluding it. Throughout, the arrangements allow for a clear rendition, with words easily heard and the accompaniment played in a crisp and direct way however intricate the arrangement might be. Becki takes the vocal air on just one, ‘The Cruel Mother’, a version from Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset. Other songs are ‘The Cornwall Apprentice’ and ‘The Torrington Ringers’.

Nick and Becki have the ability to engage their audience because of their joy in the tunes and songs. The arrangements are enhanced by James Budden on double bass and Ellen Driscoll on French horn, two instruments that add clarity.