A Celtic Family Christmas-Canadian Soul with Universal Appeal

A Celtic Family Christmas-Canadian Soul with Universal Appeal

So this is holiday music Cape Breton style. Natalie MacMaster has always satisfied fans of lively instrumental Celtic music and A Celtic Family Christmas is a joy to listen to. She recorded this with Donell Leahy (from the famous group Leahy). They married in 2002 and have six children together. I think this album speaks about that joy of being a musical family during holidays. You can hear some of their kids performing some of the tracks in the album. I did some Google search while writing this entry and I was reading this article from Windsor Sun.

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It is fascinating for both musical parents to manage six children. But this is no surprising. Celtic music has always been a family affair. Take Clannad, The Corrs, The Rankins etc. Like the connecting lines in a Celtic tapestry, a true Celt would understand how all things are related. Music is no longer an art to be incased in museum displays. It is a breathing , living thing that is part of us, as trees to soil and rivers to ocean.

The Album

A Celtic Family Christmas has eleven tunes. Most of them are familiar tunes you grew up with. But they are given a jazzy, folky and Celticky treatment. The arrangements are interesting (given their joint temperaments and did you know MacMaster is related to Jack White?) and lively.screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-11-54-23-am

The general feel of the album makes you want to get up and dance. There are slow tunes but energy dominates this as a whole. I love the sense of humor that the team have placed in the majority of the songs. The inventiveness is really captivating. I played this with relatives and they just love it! I do have my personal favorites. I love the opening song Angels We Have Heard on High. It’s a rousing tune with that signature fiddling of MacMaster and Leahy. Jazz takes the center stage with White Christmas. This is in keeping with Irving Berlin’s style which is fabulous.  Twelve Days of Christmas never sounded so fresh!

Something for everyone.

This album will touch any generation. It has a timeless appeal. The styles resonate those of eras gone by and contemporary ones making you feel like you have travelled in any times. This will also be a good introduction to those who are not really familiar with Cape Breton fiddle style. But there will be those who will be drawn to the delicate arrangements found in the likes of What Child Is This with its light-as-spring piano intro. A Celtic Family Christmas also features their kids! Yes I think you will also enjoy this album for that matter.

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In other news…

Canadian vocal powerhouse Allison Crowe showcases her amazing pipes with River. It is part of her Advent calendar as she celebrates Christmas with her fans. Check it out. Very powerful.

Flashback!

It is expected that those who fervently love the music of Clannad are also familiar with this little animation. This was release around 1989(where were you?). The story goes like this:

A little girl is given the following for her birthday: a pink piggy bank, a shiny new coin, a picture book about pirates and two tiny dolls-an Angel and a Soldier Boy.  the The pirates jump out of the picture book while she sleeps, and  then steal the shiny coin out of her piggy bank. Their noise wakes the Soldier Boy who chases after them, but he is overpowered and taken prisoner. The Angel sets off bravely to his rescue, out to sea and back again, as they retrieve the coin and bring it safely home to the little girl.

 

 

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Two New Albums by Allison Crowe

Two New Albums by Allison Crowe

Souling

Album description/liner notes:

Allison Crowe’s gorgeous voice brings tidings of comfort and joy with “Souling” – her 11th full album release.

The artist, one of our greatest living musicians, singer-songwriters and performers, has always created authentic music.

With this newest song set her voice is heard wholly a cappella.

The songs themselves have a purity of expression – a 21st century take on music of faith and spirit – sounds and themes aired by carollers and soulers of old.

I am listening to Souling by Allison Crowe. It is a holiday album from the pretty Canadian singer/songwriter. What makes it different from her other albums(or any holiday albums from any artist ) is that it’s recorded entirely in a cappella.

It reminds me of many genres including old African-American spirituals. Her singing style is unique as at times there something pop about it , in other times , it is predominantly a soulful voice. But mostly her leanings are in Folk music.
Souling  as I mentioned is a holiday album and everyone who drops by at home will hear this  being played every now and then. It doesn’t sound intrusive. But it is also not something you can ignore because her interpretations of traditional materials are  like no other.That is why it is hard to compare her to other artists. Sure, guitar and piano are her prime instruments but her singing has an earthly and sensual quality. More bluesy than folk but more folk than rock.
There are 11 tracks in Souling. When you listen to each song, you will notice the scales she is using in her arrangements. This is the style I am talking about, which makes her renditions interesting. The fact that she has a strong soulful voice, makes Souling a perfect vehicle for her unique artistry.
I have my personal favorites including The Holly and the Ivy. Her background vocal harmonies remind me of water currents running underneath the sparkling surface. Her arrangements are undeniably exquisite. With the abundance of airy fairy artists out there, Allison Crowe has a style that sets her apart from the rest of her Canadian peers. Coupled with her appearance that reminds me of Pre-Raphaelite women, she creates a compelling combination of the earthly and the spiritual.
Wassail Song is another favorite as her background vocals capture the atmosphere of a chapel. Souling is an album that redefines the usual traditional holiday tunes and also about how they are being rendered. It is in this rendition that an artist tells the listeners her true identity. It’s beautiful and fresh, something that can start the test of time and seasons.
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Newfoundland Vinyl II

Album description/liner notes:

As with following William Blake’s roadmap to eternity’s sunrise, fans of musician Allison Crowe know to kiss “the joy as it flies.”

Right now, Crowe is soaring – bringing her “Tidings” tour from Canada’s Pacific coast to its Atlantic shores. And she’s on the wing with two new albums: ‘Souling”, an a breath-taking cappella collection of traditional Christmas carols, and “Newfoundland Vinyl II”, a many-splendoured music mix – songs of, and from, her island home.

  After listening to the atmospheric and sparely populated world of Souling, Newfoundland Vinyl II is like stepping into the familiar terrain that Allison Crowe is known for. As always, her guitar sparkles with energy and joy.
I am amazed that she is able to court listeners from all genres. Her forte has always been acoustic playing. There is something rugged and simple about Newfoundland Vinyl II. No wonder she made a cameo appearance in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel last year. Yes she is in the movie(as a brunette singer with a guitar) performing in this little bar before Clark Kent gets harassed by guy who gets his truck smashed up like a pancake.
The penchant for a cappella and vocal harmonies are still there. And  she is a great story-teller. Listen to the poignant ballad The Water Witch and tell me if you are not moved by the emotions underneath the seemingly simply arrangement. She incorporates a range of materials and subjects in her songwriting. Perhaps this has something to do with her independent way of making music. I learned interesting bits in my research

“After learning how the mainstream recording industry operates, inspired by the examples of Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, and Creative Commons licensing opening new avenues for musicians, Allison Crowe launched her own record label, Rubenesque Records Ltd. The label was incorporated in 2001 and began operations with the release of an EP in 2003. She has created and released the following albums independently.”

Simplicity, leisure and sensuality are all found in Newfoundland Vinyl II.There are also different instruments- both traditional and modern , appearing in each song. One  example is the song Out from St. Leonard’s. The instruments play with each other in a call and response fashion.

I think every album  of an artist is a ‘love letter’ to the world. It is a message in a bottle. And there is power in something when you express it and that expression took time and effort. Because you can fake things through flourishes and production. But you could never fake the truth behind the songs. And I guess this is what The Newfoundland Vinyl II is about. It is about singing from the heart. It is about singing the songs of people that have been passed from every generation. The enduring sentiments in all these songs make them powerful and no matter how you sing them – you sing the toils, pains,heartbreak and joy of souls across time.