"There might be an imbalance between them in terms of age and experience, but as SA singers, songwriters and guitarists Andy Armstrong and Marta Bayly are extremely well matched, their voices and instruments blending beautifully in harmony and unison. The pair’s melodic, country-tinged folk songs are easy on the ear and occasionally out of the box. The songs that skirt closer to the country side of the tracks, such as the atmospheric ‘Down By The River’ and ‘Song For Dennis Wilson’, which are embellished with atmospheric pedal steel, are among the standouts, along with a jaunty harmony vocal study, ‘You’re Turning Me Upside Down’, that’s driven by ukulele and harmonica. Mandolin and fiddle augment the duo’s strummed acoustic guitars in ‘Silver Dagger’ (not to be confused with the folk standard of the same name). A mandolin-styled bluegrass run provides the perfect complement to Armstrong’s lead vocals in ‘Autumn Leaves’."
Fermenting in the stupor that follows the first of the "kind weather season's festivals", I sat pondering back episodes of the book place whilst sipping on Long Island iced tea. The postal worker has developed an unusual habit of driving up to the end of our driveway and tossing things out the window onto our lawn whilst continuing a rapid pace of forward locomotion. Ever since the door knocker incident the postal worker has never quite recovered.
To my delight after stepping on a rose thorn hidden in the overgrown lawn I discovered a package. A special package. The kind with Music SA stamped on the front. The best kind. Even better…it contained the latest CD ‘Opens Sea’ from the Delightful (yes with a capital D) Andy Armstrong and Marta Bayly.
Superb packaging is a great touch and adds a level of professionalism you’d expect for a record label; clearly a lot of time and effort has been put into this. Great photography by Ben Searcy and wonderful artwork and design by Barbara Coddington. Have things looking so slick is a great way to appeal to the non-musicians among us (as well as the musos of course!!)
Putting this CD into the cosmic destruction player and pressing play set off a bizarre sequence of events involving world peace and ordered restored in the balance of nature. It’s that good.
From Track 1 ‘Angels Need’ the scene is set with beautiful duelling guitars weaving around each other much in the same way Andy and Marta's voices do the same. It’s hard to pick one track from this collection but ‘Angels Need’ is the number one with a bullet. Close second for me is ‘Rain’ and bringing up third the instrumental ‘Little Marta’.
The live straight from a 3D radio Hillbilly Hoot track ‘You’re Turning Me Upside Down’ ably assisted by a large cast of hooters is… well…. A hoot! This track is a great indication of what goes on at the weekly Hillbilly Hoot and an indication of how versatile and professional Andy and Marta are as live performers.
Lyrically and musically this album drips with perfection; absolute top notch stuff that yet again leaves me scratching my head as to why more people haven’t clued onto Andy and Marta. We have a wealth of talent in the South Australian music scene, people just need to open up to local music!!
Andy Armstrong and Marta Bayly have teamed up for a first album, Harmony of One, which is characterised by an upbeat sound on tracks like 'No One to Blame' and the title track. The album features simple, honest folk lyrics and appealing, 'ups and downs of life' themes like love, travel, music and friends. A country flavour permeates, with Andy's guitar flourishes on 'No One to Blame' and rural scenes like the final track 'Every Time a Magpie Calls'.
Andy has been a children's singer for many years while Marta's performance career incredibly only began in 2008. Both are strong vocalists with a special passion for harmony works. Andy's strong voice leads with Marta's sweet and lilting complement on 'Harmony of One' and 'The Lion and the Lamb'. Marta leads on her own tracks 'Since I Met You' and 'Tomorrow'. Their sound is impressively reminiscent of the great American folk outfits of the '60s and '70s: The Seekers, Joan Baez, Carole King and Fleetwood Mac.
'Take Me to the River' is the standout track, 'It Was You' offers a smooth/lounge country sound, while 'Honey Bee', surprise winner of the open music section at SCALA's Festival of Original Music, shows Andy's whimsical perspective. Stuart Day offers lovely violin work on 'Tomorrow', while ever-versatile mandolins appear on 'Don't Fall in Love Without Me' and 'Harmony of One'.
Harmony of One is a neat first accomplishment. Andy's compositions provide Marta's voice with an opportunity to shine, but Marta's future development will be worth listening out for. Here is a classic artist in the making.