Darby O'Gill,
Irish Christmas Rollick
(self-produced, 2004)

The sad thing about Irish Christmas Rollick is that people will relegate it to a particular holiday period and, although it should get a zillion airplays at that time, it might gather dust for the rest of the year. The listener would be the loser.

OK, it is a collection of Christmas songs, but these are no ordinary Christmas ditties. Listen to Darby O'Gill on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and you will never bother with Bing Crosby again.

"Christmas Comes But Once a Year" evokes a beautiful vision of old Christmas as we walk as "on the road the frost is glistenin', free the street from midnight mass." We are all familiar with the Wren Boy tradition but how many know the lyrics of the traditional song of the day? Listen to this album and correct that omission.

"Christmas Story" is a spoken piece by W. Scott Messer that could become a set piece of family Christmases if we could avoid the holiday movies and TV specials for just a few hours and return to traditional family celebrations. The CD includes some lovely Christmas pieces by great writers like John Prine on "Christmas in Prison," a lovely piece I hadn't heard before.

Darby O'Gill are masters of adapted lyrics. They take familiar ditties and, by adding new words, revive them. "Christmas in Killarney" is a track that illustrates this very well. "Carol of the Bells" is a poignant short track. The music was composed in 1916, the lyrics in 1936 and now it has been arranged for bagpipes in the new century. "Christmas in Jail" dates from 1956 and deals with the consequences of drunk diving on the holidays.

I really liked the inclusion of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on this album. It could become a new Christmas tradition. The album includes the comic "Mrs Fogherty's Christmas Cake," which is attributed to Frank Horn in 1883 -- which means I cannot class it as being in the tradition of Percy French, but you know what I mean anyway.

They end, as all Christmas albums must, with "Auld Lang Syne."

The inclusion of the lyrics and the clear diction of the singer makes this an excellent sing-along album but, like a pet, this album is not just for Christmas. Listen to it at Easter or in summer -- it will sound just as good. After all, who avoids summer songs at Christmas?

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 17 October 2004

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