Simon Mayor,
Winter with Mandolins
(Acoustics, 1992)

What is it about the mandolin that allows it to make that magical music? It is old, it is up to date and it is timeless all at once. Add Simon Mayor to the mix and you get magic as well.

This self-taught musician could be an inspiration to us all. He started with guitar when 11 years old and then was seduced by the mandolin and violin.

His love of music that inspired this voyage of musical discovery is obvious on all his recordings, and never more so than on this release. He is not afraid to experiment and to alter tunes but he always retains the respect due to the composition.

Be warned of two things when you pick up this album. Firstly, there are a number of Christmas-themed tracks. Secondly, and most importantly, Christmas tunes are not just for Christmas. Music is music. Great music is universal in all senses, and that includes time, so give a listen to "I Saw Three Ships" in July. It sounds just as good and may even cool you down in a heat wave.

Mayor takes us on a world trip with tunes from France on "Ballades" and from Spain with "Song of the Birds." He takes us through time with a beautiful rendition of a piece from Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks" on the track "La Rejouissance." He follows a "German Cradle Song" with a Yorkshire piece called "Past 3 O'clock." He then powers into "God Rest Ye Swinging Gentlemen." This is swing-meets-Christmas for any time of year.

The album closes with a track that must be heard to be believed. "Christmas Candle" is a Russian melody played on three mandolins, two mandolas, four mandocellos and a "few other things." The only thing missing is the partridge in a pear tree.

I cannot emphasize too much that, despite the titles on offer here, this is an album for all year round. Go on, be bold and play a carol in August. The world will not stop spinning but you will enjoy good music.

by Nicky Rossiter
13 May 2006