Not to be confused with The Two Duos Quartet of Wood/Cutting and Tweed/Carr, this particular 2 Duos is a fortuitous teaming of two established pairings of young musicians in the process of discovering and celebrating common ground between their respective traditions. 2 Duos comprises Claire Mann (flute, whistle, fiddle) and Aaron Jones (singer and bouzouki player with Old Blind Dogs), with German musicians Gudrun Walther (singer and fiddler/accordionist) and Jürgen Treyz (guitar), each of whom is well accustomed to band work too (leading Secret Orders and the German outfit Cara respectively). On the face of it, a collaboration between Scottish and German musicians might seem an unlikely prospect, but their friendship, initially formed over a three-day session-blitz at 2006's Wimborne Folk Festival, quickly crystallised into a three-week tour of Germany last April and the parallel live-in-the-studio recording of just under half of this CD, the remaining tracks then being completed via cyberspace. Not that you'd be able to spot the difference, for a tremendously relaxed joie-de-vivre characterises all the performances, which focus on group dynamics and a refreshingly unhurried quality within the ensemble playing rather than on parading individual virtuosity per se (not that this aspect is ever lacking!).
Interestingly, then, only three of the tracks turn out to be purely instrumental, session-style tune-sets: Beyond The Glen combines two Scottish tunes with an Asturian street-march, Spike Island Set fits a Barra puirt-a-beul between two storming Irish tunes, and Tube Station (pairing John Carty with Stockton's Wing) kicks off with some superb twin-fiddling. The disc's vocal contingent is even more enterprising; while it's inevitably defined by the distinctive qualities of the quartet's two lead singers, some tight and well-considered harmonies from Claire and Jürgen also form an integral component of the sound-picture. Aaron gives us keen and abundantly lyrical interpretations of songs both well-loved (Braw Sailing, Beeswing) and less-known (Midlothian Mining Song and David Francey's Saints And Sinners), and a especially fine version of Sandy Denny's Solo is laced with a lovely dobro part (Jürgen). Gudrun concentrates exclusively on German-language folk material, providing some really delightful discoveries: the beautiful song of unrequited love Stets In Trauer (originally from Switzerland), two ballad-narratives and an "evening-song" (adult lullaby), The diversity of the material proves no drawback whatsoever, and this CD delivers a subtly enthralling new project that doesn't need to shout to prove its worth.
David Kidmann, May 2009, froots, also published on NetRhyths