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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews A Handful of Sky by Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

West-Country-based Nick and Becki are both well-regarded for their work with other musicians: Nick with Jackie Oates and Jim Moray as well as the band Gadarene, Becki with The Angel Brothers. However, itís their teaming as a duo which shows their instinctive and finely judged complementary musicianship to best advantage, and A Handful Of Sky, their third full-length duo record, is their most persuasive collection yet in that regard.
Considering the relatively limited tonal palette that one would imagine to be available with just two fiddles, Nick and Becki work miracles in varying the textures, their years of expertise in playing together being especially evident on sets like Regentís Fete and Mrs Lovettís Pies, and the animated medley of hornpipes (track five). As far as fiddles are concerned, both musicians also prove adept on the viola, while you may be surprised to discover that Becki has even taken up the bassoon!
Additionally, on some tracks Nick and Becki bring in double-bassist James Budden and / or French-horn player Ellen Driscoll, who boost the texture to entirely beneficial effect. Needless to say though, itís the driving force of the duoís own performances that provides the primary interest, and yet this sense of drive also characterises the discís three vocal items, which do more than just provide interludes from the dancing and are definitely not the poor relation to the scintillating instrumental tracks. Becki turns in an excellent performance of the Cruel Mother ballad, while The Torrington Ringers is nicely done as a vocal duet.
This well-balanced disc provides another very good example of producer Doug Baileyís uncanny knack for bringing out the best in the artists he selects for his labelís roster.