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MAGGIE SANSONE & FRIENDS - Cold Frosty Morn At West River: Celtic Holiday Music And Songs

MAGGIE SANSONE & FRIENDS - Cold Frosty Morn At West River: Celtic Holiday Music And Songs
Maggie’s Music MM307

Tis the season to be jolly! I’m listening to this on the hottest day of the year, and it’s a refreshing, cooling delight. Over the past few years, hammered dulcimer specialist Maggie has produced a succession of seasonal, mostly winter-themed albums which have explored the meeting of American roots and Celtic traditions, and Cold Frosty Morn takes the seemingly-inexhaustible concept onward with a further judicious selection of songs and instrumental pieces drawn from Irish, Scottish (including Shetland), Welsh, old-time Appalachian, medieval and other traditional sources.

Genially improvisatory chamber-folk-like takes on favourite carols are attractively interspersed with or surrounded by seasoned old-time fiddle tunes, strathspeys and reels; the medley of Go Tell It On The Mountain and the Cold Frosty Morn reel is a joyous and spiritful highlight. The songs range from Rose Of Allendale to the Irish Carol Of The Birds (Curoo Curoo) and I Wonder As I Wander (the latter buried under the title Appalachian Christmas). The vocal contributions are lovingly phrased by Maggie’s guitarist-collaborator Patrick Egan, while the sparkling playing of fiddler Andrea Hoag and Celtic-harp virtuoso Sharon Knowles are found just as pleasing and invariably authoritative.

This well-planned and generously-filled disc contains much that is graceful, charming and gently atmospheric (like Andrea’s own composition Planting In Winter), while at the same time vibrant and positively animated (Mummer’s March, Noël Nouvelet/Patapan). The music-making is accomplished while entirely without pretension, and Maggie and her troupe avoid any of the potential inherited sentimentality of the traditional seasonal repertoire by virtue of their sparkling musicianship and unashamed conviviality. Joy To The World, indeed. And the accompanying liner note both sets the context and gives due historical and musical perspective.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 110 of The Living Tradition magazine.