Coyote Run,
Tend the Fire
(Run Wild, 2005)

Coyote Run can't hold back their enthusiasm for the holidays.

The opening track on Tend the Fire, "Somerset Wassail," strikes a galloping pace and plays with the traditional arrangement enough to introduce our merry balladeers. There are attempts to regain some sense of holy solemnity. The traditional "A Sail!" is delivered with steady, austere vocal harmonizing. "The Bells," performed with the title instruments, along with accordions and others, is a snow-crisp rendition of the familiar tune. But try as they might to keep a straight face, the Coyotes and their friends can't maintain it for long, and soon they're swinging through "The Christmas Song" and inserting tongues in the cheeks of overly familiar carols.

That enthusiasm, along with a varied song selection, makes Tend the Fire more flexible than most holiday albums. "Greensleeves" is a fine traditional song, at home any time of year. The dreams of peace on Earth in "Wise Men" and "Christmas in the Trenches" are especially resonant in the Christmas season, but universal and poetic enough to sound right on a midsummer's eve. Other songs, like the decidedly Christmassy "Boar's Head Christmas Carol" and the tongue-in-cheek "Twelve Days After Christmas" are boisterous enough to fit any holiday, from New Year's Eve to May Day.

Despite its flexibility, Tend the Fire is still very much a Christmas album. There are meditative, almost holy moments, in many of the chosen carols, enhanced by Coyote Run's choir-like vocal layering. Contrasting their elegantly streamlined vocal arrangements with extravagant and varied instrumental assortments, Coyote Run perfectly captures the mix of rejoicing and contemplation that is the holiday season at its best, and delivers it in one fine CD.

by Sarah Meador
24 December 2005

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