Laura Cannell reviews Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay’s collaborative album The Hawksworth Grove Sessions: Duets for 6 & 12 String Guitar, out now on Cambrian Records.
I first hear The Hawksworth Grove Sessions on the train travelling through the Essex countryside, fields and copses passing in hazel late afternoon light. I’m in the quiet carriage with headphones on (very low), the guitar duets of Hay & Ghedi creating a quartet with the steel rhythm underfoot and the irregular sequences from the train vestibule.
The calmness intensifies as metal strings intertwine with glittering passages strewn with delicate ornamentation from both folk and classical traditions. Ghedi and Hay give a voice to every roadside wildflower they pass on their travels as they tour up and down the UK. They gather the hues of the country lanes and carriageways, and add them to their deep-rooted personal musical landscapes which capture the beauty and bleakness of rural life and communities in Wales and South Yorkshire. Travelling these new roads together has given them a new narrative. Passages are repeated but nothing stays still; minimal transitions lead the listener along but never back.
I find myself imagining that music is being performed on one grand delicate instrument, an ethereal imaginary harpsichord, a travelling instrument. This is a coming together of two voices who merge with a sense of lullaby and love for the countryside.
The album track listing reads like a newly discovered book of 18th century folk tunes – ‘Night, Moon, Dance’, ‘Goat Fell’, ‘The Huntsman and the Horse’ – and is instantly evocative of pastoral life. The time that Ghedi and Hay have spent together on the road has bound their playing into a sound of delicate beauty. There is rise and fall but no wildness; this is not a bad thing, as it ultimately creates the feeling of slow motion while simultaneously capturing the rhythm of travel.
The albums’s interludes are sparse, and have the space of a Davey Spillane slow pipe or whistle air, which appears and disappears just as your breathing starts to slow and sink into the spaces. Other tracks have a sense of repeating ground bass, a launching point for each performer to drift and return, to extemporise away from the other but be anchored together through a mutual gut feeling about where this music is going.
The Hawksworth Grove Sessions are rooted yet glide across miles of land, and could easily expand beyond the borders and coasts. The windows rolled down, occasionally slowing at passing places, slow motion, fast driving, the blurred colours of Monet. Swathes of long grass, blossoming trees, they capture the sound of bright chilly Autumnal mornings. This is music for all seasons, and sounds even better when travelling. Ghedi and Hay take you with them to hear the magical hours of being on the road between live performances, creating an evocative score for the landscape of these isles.
Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay perform music from The Hawksworth Grove Sessions at our next event, taking place at The Social, London, on 19 November. More info/tickets available here.