ACE participation for two of the most engaging artists on the folk circuit


SykesMartin at Ace Space, Newbury on Friday 16th September. Review by GRAHAM HOBBS

SykesMartin is a new collaboration between renowned folk artists Miranda Sykes and Hannah Martin. Miranda (bass, guitar, shruti box) is best known for playing with the duo Show of Hands, and Hannah (fiddle, tenor guitar, banjo) is one half of Edgelarks and now part of Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band.

After meeting at a winter dinner party, they decide to form a duo to explore the traditional folk music that has influenced them throughout their various musical careers. Covid and lockdowns slowed that process down, but now they’ve released a new album titled Unquenchable fire and are finally on the road touring across the country.

Sykes Martin, photo Richard Markham (59401727)
Photo by SykesMartin Richard Markham
Photo by SykesMartin Richard Markham

Their stop at the compact and friendly Ace Space was their fourth attempt to play there and some people had tickets held up from 2020. Just over 50 people gave the duo a warm welcome as they performed their first song, lady daisy. Collected by Alan Lomax, it has been recorded many times by many artists. Most of the songs they sang and played are well known in the folk canon and there is always a danger of “do we need another version of this song” or “maybe there are better proposed versions.

However, the duo showed off their musical talents, using their own distinctive vocals, arrangements and chords to breathe new life into classics such as Black-eyed sailor, charming on the water, Sweet Lemany and Blow out the candle. A personal favorite was go your way which was written and performed by Bert Jansch of Pentangle, but which Miranda learned from the singing of the brilliant Anne Briggs.

Hannah told us she loves writing songs as gifts for people. The duo performed two, one written for Hannah’s daughter, Rosa, and the other for Miranda’s son, Wilf. They ended the set with the album’s title track, Unquenchable fire, and first featured Miranda on shruti box, which she said she learned to perform via a YouTube video. They continued with an a capella song titled Occasional song and too soon this beautiful evening of music from two of the folk circuit’s most endearing performers has come to an end.

Photo by SykesMartin Richard Markham
Photo by SykesMartin Richard Markham

Track Dogs, Fred’s House and Truckstop Honeymoon are all playing Ace Space before Christmas, so check for full details.


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