December 05, 2008

endless drawings, countless sketches on my windowpanes...

Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man
Topic Records (2006)
Waterson:Carthy – their music is unrepentantly traditional. Folks who prefer their Christmas songs to have a rustic, handmade feel to them will enjoy Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man immensely. Given how the same Christmas songs tend to get played over and over again starting earlier and earlier every year, it’s wonderfully refreshing to find that Waterson:Carthy were able to breathe some life into what can sometimes be a stagnant genre – and they do it, ironically, by resurrecting some material that’s even older than many of the seasonal songs with which we’re so familiar.

Now understand, this is not JUST a Christmas album. Yes, most of the songs have a yuletide flavour, some others are hymns sung at Christmas or New Year, but there are songs on here from all year round and it would be more accurate to describe this as a festive, celebratory album. Joining Waterson:Carthy for this festive album are folk trio The Devil's Interval and a number of tracks are further bolstered by the inclusion of some brass and cello. Overall, these additions give this disc a wonderfully full rousing sound, a little added depth and a more formal choral quality than is found on most Waterson:Carthy offerings.

The opening track “Residue” (a New Year’s carol), sets the albums tone with authority. A wonderful, rousing, cheery number with a full chorus sung with gusto and good cheer –you just know this is going to be a great album! As ever with Waterson:Carthy, Martin Carthy’s booklet notes give you fascinating insight into the songs and their sources – I wish someone would publish all of Martin’s anecdotes in a collected volume…maybe someday.

There are plenty of highlights: “Reap, Hook and Sickle” with its name check for Waterson:Carthy’s home of Robin Hood’s Bay; “On Christmas Day It Happened So” –Tim Van Eyken at his melancholy vocal best; “Gloryland” –the final track, a beautiful Baptist hymn.
However, none of these come anywhere close to eclipsing “Jack Frost” (written by Mike Waterson and sung by Eliza Carthy).

It will stop you in your tracks.
It will make the hairs on your neck stand on end.

It will, like Jack Frost himself send shivers down your spine.

Repeat. Play. Repeat. Play.

The long winter nights will just fly on by.

Try a touch of Jack Frost.
buy it


b said...

oh no! i think blogger ate my comment? (or maybe you have verification on right now, in which case, my bad.)

anyway, i really liked the narrative in this song, from what i gathered from a few listens, and the alternative reality/folkloric world it sets up. it's really haunting, and what a great voice! my favorite line: "master craftsman, skilled engraver" (if i got it right.)

can't wait to see what you've got in store. the new place looks great, and i love the image at the top! (who's the artist?)

and the ballerinas with guns are classic :)

b said...

haha, ignore the 2nd to last paragraph. as shown in my comment on the last post, i can't keep track of anything :]

b said...

hey ken, hope the holidays are only too-busy in that good holiday way :)

thanks for the info on coby whitmore! i've been looking around for his other stuff, and i love it! "racing cars, illustrating, and smart clothes on beautiful women" is pretty much the best/most badass artist statement i've ever seen.

glad to hear there's a fellow last holiday lover out there, that movie never fails to make me smile.

i'm listening to the snowflakes mix as i type up some notes for my final tomorrow (medieval class, the music kinda puts me in the mood.) i really like "gabriel's message," "st. george," "nedeleg," all of them, really, but those are my favorites :) thanks, as always, for the awesome music!