Simon Mayor
& Hilary James,
(Acoustics, 2001)

Duos is a classic album of voice and mandolin. It captures the joy and enthusiasm of the live performance as few other such albums have.

The choice of tracks is eclectic and works wonderfully. It moves between traditional and classical with some wonderful anecdotes dropped in.

Simon Mayor is a true genius of the mandolin and he can make the instrument hum with life. When you add the fantastic vocals of Hilary James, you are in musical heaven.

Listening to "When Summer Comes Again," you will be entranced by a voice. Then on "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," you marvel at two hands being able to produce such magic.

The humour of the live performance comes through to great effect on "The Parrot Song."

This CD has 27 tracks, including the patter of Simon, who gets the audience "eating out his hand" with his genius for playing -- which leads to his confidence in chatting between tracks.

"O'er the Ocean" is one of my favourite tracks and I was amazed to find it was a composition by Hilary; I would have sworn that it was a traditional song. Such is the accomplishment of this duo, you cannot distinguish between new and old, as each gets the unique arrangement and treatment.

Just to prove that although he is master of mandolin, he does not neglect other instruments, Simon gives us "Lament for Abercarney" on the fiddle. We then get "Black and White Rag," more familiar on piano but here experienced on mandolin and guitar.

This is a CD to acquire for a live experience, a collection of classics -- old and new, and some dry humour. You can't lose.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 19 March 2005