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John Peacock May 2004

Duo merge into musical entity. Concert audiences can be fickle, headstrong creatures some seemingly incapable of being tamed. I recall attending one hotel based jazz event that was plagued with so much incessant audience chatter that the vocalist was moved to stop the band in mid flow and suggest to one particular talkative lady that she should either shut up or get out. In the event, the culprit declined to do either but the point was well made. Contrast that with the total respect awarded to multi-talented local duo Landermason at their latest concert. The quality of their performance easily held their audience rapt and spellbound at the sell-out event, in Hexhams Exchange caf. The music of vocalist/instrumentalist Fiona Lander and guitarist Paul Mason spans the folk, jazz and classical fields and brings to each a deep intensity of feeling that rivets the attention. The duo have a striking musical rapport. When first launched two or three years ago, largely with covers of popular songs, LanderMason tended to come across as Lander with Mason. Developing more of their own compositions then saw Paul step out of the background and the duo gel into Lander and Mason. But it hasnt stopped thereAfter playing together at many more venues, their performances have been honed and polished until the duo project as one Landermason, a musical entity. At the Exchange concert, one had to admire the rich vocal and instrumental harmonies and subtle chord changes that flowed effortlessly Fionas airy voice blending with the mellower supporting vocals and scintillating guitar of Paul Mason. This particular concert was largely folk orientated and with a Northern slant, the reason being that it was the launch pad for their latest CD Angel of The North songs from which featured heavily. A very varied programme, which included a lot of their own compositions, largely saw Fiona on vocals on her own, sparing keyboard accompaniment, or on wind instruments, with Pauls expressive cajoling or dancing guitar rounding the mix. Jigs (of which there are two on the new CD) proved especially popular with the audience, as those humblest of instruments, whistle and recorder (in addition to a soprano saxophone) cavorted energetically to the commands of Fionas flying fingers. In a totally different vein, the soprano sax on the duos own How am I to Know? was hauntingly languid. Landermasons adventurous harmonies brings a freshness even to traditional songs. Thus Greensleeves took on a richer colour through a sparkling arrangement, and the Scottish Dark Island - one of the tunes on the new CD became even darker and more haunted. The self penned I will be back soon from the new CD presented the musical togetherness of the duo at its best. Their own composition Angel of the North was memorable for Fionas whistle and recorder breaks. An old Landermason favourite Somalia (twinned with Woodstock) with an expressive guitar lead-in and vocal harmonies, equally plumbed emotional depths. In a more jazzy vein, The Mirror incorporating some scat singing and dedicated to the memory of Fionas former teacher Ken Morrell and On the Level bounced along to the impulsion of driving keyboard and guitar. Moving more introspectively towards the close of the concert, however, were the Paul Mason led 1969 and the mellow clarinet inspired Eternity. Landermasons concerts just keep getting better and better, but the audience would attest they will be going some to improve upon that one. Mention has to be made to one song not included in the concert, but featured on the CD Water of Tyne. It is indisputable that there are some singers who can make your spine tingle (Billie Holiday, Marian Montgomery, Eva Cassidy come to mind) though it seems this is best achieved with very simple songs. You cant find a much more simple song than Water of Tyne. The CDs exquisite arrangement of this traditional air is recorded, like the rest of the album, with explicit vocal and instrumental presence and with its spine-tingling cool voice and the liquid guitar, is magic. On the CD, which contains 8 tracks, the duos playing is also enhanced by some gentle percussion from Keith Bleasby, although he did not take part in the concert.