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Frost Bites
Wild Goose WGS366CD

It’s Valentine’s Day... and I find myself reviewing – what’s this? – Mssrs Hutchinson and Sartin’s Christmas album.  So would seem, but appearances, like the multi-layered pun of the CD’s title, can be deceptive.

The CD has eight tracks – seemingly short – but half those tracks are song/tune medleys, whereas the four remaining songs clock in at over five minutes apiece. Despite appearances (not to mention expectations), not a single track on this set is actually about Christmas – we have the prequel to the day in the manger (Cherry trees, walking Joseph and Herod’s cock); we have a post-Christmas mummers’ song; we have the Sans Day Carol (the clue’s in the title); we have a parlour ballad from the repertoire of the great Walter Pardon (merely set in December) and we have a Canadian descriptive folksong. Plus, as mentioned, four tunes, none of which is specifically Christmassy, even if one is called Yuleogy (another pun).

Elegantly and evocatively arranged, expansively recorded and expressively produced, this album sweeps across your speakers like snowblow on the South Downs. It’s a winter album about the traditional view of the season and reaches back beyond the remaking of 19th century moralists, before Santa got his claws into the season.

As a result, the album is refreshing and sometimes startling. The musicianship is impeccable. The singing sensitive. The song selection impeccable.  It’s not just for Christmas – and it’s probably worth playing at Midsummer, just to help you appreciate the good weather.

File under: tradition/seasonal.

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.