The Two Sisters are Hilary James and Janet Giraudo. Janet sings (and brings the French influence to the duo) while Hilary sings and plays guitar, double bass and mandobass on Songs & Chansons. They are joined by Hilary’s partner Simon Mayor on guitar, mandolin, mandola, mandocello and percussion, with additional percussion from Simon Price.
The album is a musical pot pourri of French and English traditional songs, classical pieces, jazz standards, pop songs and arrangements of poems.
Even if you do not immediately recognise the title of John Masefield’s Sea Fever the familiarity of the opening lines will make you feel you are in the company of old friends. This and Christina Rossetti’s Lullaby have been arranged by Simon Mayor, and both work well as songs.
Several of the tracks are sung in French - L’auberge au crepsucle (The Inn at Twilight) is a simply gorgeous nostalgic wallow, with the close harmony singing accompanied by a full string section.
Que ne suis-je la fougère is a pastoral piece by the Baroque composer Pergolesi. Originally a solo, it has here been skilfully turned into a duet by Simon Mayor.
Towards the end of the end of the album we hear Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle, a Provençal carol dating from the 16th century, which is traditionally sung by children on their way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
The French influence reaches elsewhere too - What a Little Moonlight Can Do has an arrangement reminiscent of the Hot Club de Paris. There is more of this jazz/ragtime feel in Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight.
A couple of classic English folk songs are also included on the album, I Live Not Where I Love and My Faithful Johnny - the latter has a particularly rich string part complimenting Hilary and Janet’s close harmony singing.
Dreams seem to be a recurrent theme on the album, most evidently in Dream a Little Dream of Me and the Everly Brothers’ hit All I Have to Do is Dream. The former combines more close harmony singing with a simple string accompaniment (reprised in a charming version by 10 year old Cloé as a bonus track) while All I Have to Do is Dream becomes a slushy, but nevertheless lovely duet by the sisters.
Balancing the Pergolesi nicely is a movement from Vivaldi’s Gloria. Simon Mayor has arranged Laudamus Te for mandolin quartet which works perfectly.
Throughout the album, Hilary and Janet’s pure voices blend beautifully without ever sounding twee. Songs & Chansons is exquisitely executed.Shelley Rainey
Released on Acoustic Records, 25th November 2013
1. Sea Fever
2. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
3. L’auberge au crepuscule
5. Dream a Little Dream of Me
6. Que ne suis-je la fougère
7. Laudamus Te
8. I Live Not Where I Love
9. Plaisir d’amour
10. All I have to do is Dream
11. Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
12. Tout s’efface
13. Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle
14. My Faithful Johnny