Reviewed by John Cheek
Reviewing a Christmas-themed album in the first few months of the new year is an interesting exercise (unavoidable in this case) but the blessing of it is that time allows the listener to be somewhat removed from any mad whirl of expectation, rushing around, glitz or hype; therefore able to consider the merits of the album in the cold-light-of-day, in a way. This has been a delight as this is a glorious fusion of Celtic, folk and even yiddish sounds. Sometimes the best music takes you to another place and hints at different horizons. This one does. But why the title - and not a 'Celtic Christmas'? It is Celtic in the wider sense; the album has timeless, middle-eastern, Hebrew, Messianic points of reference and, in several places, the collection sounds like Helen Shapiro-Messianic worship. Great vocals, marvellous musicianship, delightful arrangements and an interesting choice of familiar and lesser-known carols make for a sparkling collection. With the market full of Christmas-themed albums, this was clearly something the ensemble wanted to do - felt it was right to do. Husband and wife Nigel Cameron and Julie Cameron-Hall are joined by a stellar line-up, including Dave Bainbridge. Amazing sounds come from a variety of instruments including mandolins, penny whistles and Uilleann pipes. "Away In A Manger" features almost a call-and-response between the parts, at the end. "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" sees a key-change coincide with the advent of Nigel's uplifting vocal and they make it all seem so effortless. Even the final track, including the sound of carol singing from Northern Ireland in the early-'70s, captured on a primitive tape-recorder, is fascinating. Sublime sound, sublime vision - my only disappointment is that "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" is only featured as an instrumental and then, only for a few seconds. Perhaps it was just one arrangement too far!
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out