‘The Christmas Present’ Various Artists - a sparkling compilation from Folkstock Records(November 25, 2014)
As someone wholly dedicated to both the spirit and season of Christmas in all its atmosphere and substance, the words ‘Christmas album’ often fill me with a desperate foreboding. They usually herald another collection of pointless, sugary-sweet pop-pap or a turgid regurgitation of ancient songs better consigned to history. That means I treat every Christmas compilation with a massive degree of suspicion.
However, the latest Christmas offering to come my way is ‘The Christmas Present’, a sparkling compilation from Folkstock Records. And with the unerring certainty of recordings received from Folkstock, this is an album definitely worth its turkey and trimmings. No socks, bath salts and hankies here - this is a feast you’ll want to savour.
The songs reach from ‘Red Paper Wrapping’ a tenderly crafted, desperately affecting Christmas narrative from Katy Rae, soft-expression and rich melody as Zoe Wren delivers ‘Snow-white Lies’, through Minnie Birch touching our memories with the delicate echoes of ‘Snowman’, to Garry Smith’s rousing reality ‘Camden Town Christmas’ and John Fardon’s relentlessly demanding ‘Peace In Our Hearts’ featuring the inimitable Dave Swarbrick. ‘The Christmas Present’ also offers a chance to hear the distinctive tones of Daria Kulesh delivering a powerful sense of longing with ‘I Watch The Snow’, the impressively-voiced Kelly Oliver with ‘A Song With No Name’, the intricate harmonies of Said The Maiden joined through ‘O Holy Night’ and Pete Guy’s stripped back solo of ‘Silent Night’.
However you take your Christmas, traditional or contemporary, secular or sacred, this album will touch some part of you. And you’ll feel all the better for it. Folkstock launches ‘The Christmas Present’ at The Southbank Centre on Friday 28 November 2014. More details here: folkstockrecords.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll