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VARIOUS ARTISTS Cold Blow These Winter Winds - A Celtic Celebration of Christmas Green Linnet GLCD 1228

Rory Campbell organized this benefit concert, which was recorded live at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh in December 2003. Many of Scotland and northern England's best-known acoustic musicians collaborated for the project. The theme is Christmas (which I feel ultimately limits this album's appeal and potential), and I'm left with a feeling that the two distinct halves of the album don't 'hang together' easily. The album is far too heavily edited for my liking - applause (which may well have sounded rapturous to the attendee) sounds strangely (and disappointingly) muted on the recording - all the 'live' feel is thereby washed away.

It starts off well enough, with a lively piano/whistle duet by Dave Milligan and Rory Campbell. 'Lullay Lullay' is a gentle carol sung by Corrina Hewat with customary elegance. Karine Polwart & Andy Lang duet on a rousing version of 'Fairytale of New York' - this one at least is met by enthusiastic applause! Polwart sings a beautiful song 'Balulalow' with her usual vocal beauty & fine bass playing from Kevin McGuire. Things pick up with alt-country singer Dean Owens' 'Blue December' - I feel this song in particular is sung with genuine feeling - Owens has a wonderfully distinctive voice, aided here by Marianne Campbell's lovely fiddle playing. Eliza Carthy sings 'Divas And Lazarus' beautifully, and a cappella. 'Little Drummer Boy' rounds off the first part of the album nicely.

However, the last part of the album doesn't sit so easily, particularly the songs 'Lullaby', 'Christ Child's Lullaby', 'Christmas In Prison', 'Blue Christmas' and 'Silent Night'. Things pick up again slightly with Dean Owens' whimsical 'It's Christmas Time', sung by his daughter Billie. And yet the instrumentation remains excellent throughout. The jury's still out with this recording. I'm not sure whether the Christmassy subject matter will ultimately hold much appeal for the listener.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 60 of The Living Tradition magazine.