Their newly released first album “Harlequin” highlights Dave’s exquisite finger style guitar playing and song writing skills as well as showcasing Nigel’s vocals and sensitive musical accompaniment on guitar and cello mandolin. The album has a balanced mix of traditional and contemporary songs and tunes including 4 tracks that were written by Dave and Nigel.
Review by Sue Robinson
This CD from Cap in Hand: Nigel ‘Muddy’ Walters and David Spira, is a classic folk singer’s compendium, beautifully played and sung. And the word ”poignant” seems the right one to describe Harlequin’s atmosphere. Waters and Spira aren’t afraid to play familiar tunes simply, letting their beauty glow naturally. Harmonies are used to emphasise and enhance the stories in these songs, which also feature significant, resolutely acoustic, instrumental passages.
Both Walters and Spira have the ability to make the tricky sound easy and natural, and their instrumental passages flow gently through the songs, tempting the listener to let them form an ambient background. But they reward closer attention.
Three of the songs, for example, are medleys, blending different tunes and feels to lead the listener on a journey through two interpretations of a similar theme.
The first track on Harlequin, is a beautiful example. Simple, but effective instrumentation lets the story shine through the delicate melody of When a Knight Won His Spurs, set up by another melody – Kit’s Tune.
Stormy Petrel/The High Stepping Rooster uses rhythm to produce two very different atmospheres. The petrel’s ocean environment swirls through the playing which switches to produce the confident strutting rhythms of the seabird’s cocky barnyard cousin.
Sally Wheatley, track two, is also plain in its arrangement, letting the real pathos of the story show. The 1854 Stephen Foster song, Hard Times Come Again No More, features simple harmony. Mary McClusky was written by David Spira, and is based on an actual mining incident in which 137 miners perished, three of which shared a surname. Spira used the possibility that these might have all been from the same family to look at the disaster through he eyes of a grieving mother. Nigel Walters’ writing also features, with Close Your Eyes, a simple love song with a memorable melody.
At first listen Canadee-i-o is classic story – that of the young girl who cross dresses to join her sailor-boy at sea. He lets her down, but in this story, she rises above it, marrying the captain and ending up rich and successful as one of the finest ladies in Canadee-i-o.
The waltz on the CD, is danceable and has a singalong chorus, but still features Cap in Hand’s signature air of melancholy: “Waltzing’s for dreamers and losers in love,” they sing. Ah yes, but haven’t we all been dreamers? Haven’t we all lost in love? And we know that the poignancy of loss is beautiful in its own way. So is Harlequin.