Phillip Henry & Hannah Martyn ‘MYND’ – album review

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martyn ‘MYND’ (Dragonfly Roots)

It’s hard not to argue against the fact that the highly rated Devonshire pairing of Hannah Martin and Lancashire born Phillip Henry are at the top of their game at the moment. Being recognised by the 2012 South West Music Awards as ‘Best Folk Act’ and taking the prestigious ‘Best Duo’ award in the 2013 Spiral Earth Awards is just the tip of the iceberg. Also lauded by Show Of Hands’ Steve Knightley, who discovered the pair busking can you believe, at Sidmouth Folk Week, they found themselves subsequently invited as a support at the prestigious 2012 SoH gig at the Royal Albert Hall.

Wasting no time in following up their 2012 debut album ‘Singing The Bones’ comes the new album ‘Mynd’, and like many modern folk artists they’ve make light of the difficult second album syndrome and pick up where the debut left off with another refined and beautifully played collection of songs.

From the expansive and bleak moorland panorama which adorns the fold out sleeve comes the opening track ‘Silbury Hill’, inspired by a walk up to view one of Wiltshire’s ancient monuments. It’s described as though stepping back in time and the first appearance of Hannah Martin’s pure and clear vocals evoke images of ages past, transporting the listener to ancient times as Phil’s guitar takes over alongside insistent percussion giving the album a foreboding and atmospheric opening.

The second part of the 2 part call for justice, ‘Nailmaker’s Strike’, sees the pair working perfectly in tandem as firstly Hannah’s fiddle and then the two voices play over an almost reggae rhythm created by Phil’s harmonica and guitar chops. Phil’s ‘Thirty Miles’ shows his influences picked up in America’s deep south with its swampy blues feel and tale of slavery and the sacrifices for small pleasures and this is followed by Hannah taking the lead on the eastern flavoured ‘Last Broadcast’ – a more topically inspired song providing an elegy for the death of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and taking her final article as the basis for the lyric.

The achingly soothing and mellow ‘Whitsun Dance’ is a subtle yet immensely powerful tribute to the coming anniversary of the First World War. Picked up from the singing of Shirley Collins,
The range of inspirations is considerable and predominantly female; sisters of German astronomers, fiancée’s of lost Arctic explorers and Victorian gardeners and it’s these backgrounds to the songs which give so much depth and appeal to the album. It’s Phillip Henry however, who emerges as the real star of the show with his multi instrumental skills, honed in India and the American deep south, and applied to a range of stringed instruments from guitar, to tenor guitar to dobro to lap steel and lap slide.

Wrapping up the album with the bonus of James Taylor’s ‘Close Your Eyes’, it’s a restrained and low key performance which sums up the overall allure of an album which can’t fail to please in a understated yet highly original manner.

Tracklisting:

1. Silbury Hill
2. The Nailmaker’s Strike pt.I
3.The Nailmaker’s Strike pt.II
4. Song For Caroline Herschel
5. Thirty Miles
6. Last Broadcast
7. Elegy
8. Whitsun Dance
9. Sportsman’s Hornpipe / The Banks Of The Nile
10. Miss Willmott’s Ghost
11. Waterland
12. Silver Box
13. Close Your Eyes

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