Any day now
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Date: 16 February, 2004

Any Day Now by Kirsten Winter and Chris Peirce
 
'...much of the album is reinforced instinctively by the harmony of performer and material - they just know, exactly, what to do.'

Former Yes drummer Bill Bruford listens to Any Day Now, by Kirsten Winter and Chris Peirce

This 13 track CD showcases Kirsten Winter's vocals backed by Chris Peirce's acoustic guitar, with no other musicians. Occasionally it is vocals only ("Come Rain or Come Shine"), or solo guitar ("Gozinta Soup"), but for the most part it's a beautifully pure duo musical setting with the obvious advantages and potential pitfalls for performer and listener alike.

For those who perenially complain that they can't hear the words, there's no problem here in this pristine and well-recorded environment. You could hear a fly landing on the music stand.

From the artists' point of view, there is nowhere to hide in such an acoustic duo, no blaring horn section to get lost in, so they need to be very sure of their ability to deliver in such a delicate gossamer web, with such minimal armament, over a whole CD; above all, they'll need variety, vocabulary and control.

And variety they have, particularly in the choice of material, often the cause of sleepless nights for many a singer. When they get it right, as with Mark Knopfler's "Why Worry?" or the brilliant version of Isaac Guillory's "Slow Down", or the reggae version of Dylan's "I Shall be Released", or indeed much of the album, it's as if, reinforced instinctively by the harmony of performer and material, they just know, exactly, what to do.

Harmony

Then again there are the more legitimately "jazz" tunes, on which they are on slightly shakier ground. The harmony moves faster, and despite Chris Peirce's admirable attempt at holding the bass part, and (occasionally double-tracked) solos all together, one can't help feeling that an upright bass would make a useful addition.

That would then allow the guitar more room to respond rather than cope, albeit manfully. Peirce has lots of golden moments; beautiful arpeggios and a strong solo on "You Must Believe in Spring", a confident rhythmic stride on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine", great flexibility with phrasing and rhythm in the solo of "Cry Me A River", and his solo "Gozinta Soup" would no doubt bring the house down in a club.

Such vocabulary will require your partner to respond, and Winter likewise has plenty of resources at her command. I particularly liked the slightly sinister intro to "All or Nothing At All", the beautiful crescendo opening to "Cry Me A River", and her finely wrought rendition of "Slow Down", which must surely be the high spot of this excellent CD.

Less successful perhaps are the half-sung, half-whispered vocals on "Walking Down Madison", and some rather unconvincing scat on "Take the A Train", but these are minor quibbles on what is generally a very strong and musical outing.

These affairs are all about detail, a reduction to the barest essentials a nakedness, if you like, coupled with the perfect song. On one level, Kirsten Winter and Chris Peirce function admirably as a highly talented pub duo, and on another level, they are one step away from Peggy Lee and "Fever." It wouldn't surprise me at all to see them on a major label any day now.

To buy the album, click here.

Bill Bruford was the original drummer with progressive rock band Yes and is a former member of Genesis and King Crimson. He has also formed the bands Bruford and Earthworks. His website is
here.