The winter holidays inspire musicians all across the world and from across al sorts of music to explore familiar melodies and lyrics, sometimes in new ways. Here are five recordings of music for winter from points of the compass you may not yet have explored, or might enjoy revisiting.
The Good Lovelies are a a trio of Canadian women whose star is rising in the Americana and folk circuit. Their holiday album Under the Mistletoe has a definite swing and a slight touch of jazz added to that idea, though. Sue Passmore, Kerri Ough, and Caroline Brooks each play several instruments and do that well, but it is their harmonies and arrangements which will stay in your mind, as they offer a varied collection of songs including Santa Baby, Mele Kalikimaka, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, and Silent Night. There are also four original songs written by members of the trio, and these add to the disc and stand up well alongside seasonal favorites.
Under the Mistletoe would be a fine soundtrack for a holiday party, and the festive vibe continues with Putumayo Presents Celtic Christmas. As is usually the case with albums from Putumayo. it is a gathering of tracks from a number of artists, in this case featuring the fellowship and friendship side of the holiday season. Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola offers Nollaig Bhan, which is the familiar song White Christmas, sung in Irish. The Albion Christmas Band hails good cheer with Here We Come a -Wassailing, and Aine Minogue gives a seasonal dance with the Jezebel Carol on her harp. Charles Cozens, David Arkenstone and Druid Stone are among the other artists represented, with traditional songs of the season. Scottish musicians Dougie MacLean closes out the collection with Auld Lang Syne.
Winter Dreams for Christmas leans toward a contemplative take on things. The music is for the most part well known carols and songs of the season. As played by Navajo musician R. Carlos Nakai on Native American flutes, the familiar melodies take on a refective, thoughtful aspect. There is also as a very definite southwestern and Native flavor to the music done this way, with just flute and now and again a bit of backing from guitar.
Will Taylor is best known as a violinist with a jazz background who guides the innovative Strings Attached program of concerts in Austin, Texas. Karen Mal, also based in Austin, is best known as a folk and Americana singer and songwriter who travels widely with her music. For this Christmas season, though, Will took up his guitar and Karen took up her mandolin. Through nineteen tracks on A Mandolin Christmas,the duo offers thoughtful and creative musical conversation in arrangements which seem at the same time familiar and new . Music includes Joy to the World, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, O Come All Ye Faithful, and What Child Is This.
Bonnie Rideout on Scottish fiddle, Al Petteway on guitar and cittern, Maggie Sansone on hammered dulcimer, Eric Rigler on Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes and uilleann pipes all get together for A Scottish Christmas. If Auld Lang Syne (and yes, it’s on this album) is mainly what you think of when Scottish music for midwinter is mentioned, prepare to enjoy the range of strathspeys, reels, wassail tunes and traditional carols these musicians have in mind. Adeste Fidelis and God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen, receivee a Scottish flair, and there are less widely known pieces including Christmas Day in the Mornin’ and Da Day Dawn, both of which look to their origins in Shetland, a group of islands which lie far off the north coast of Scotland.
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