Golden Bough,
Christmas in a Celtic Land
(self-produced, 1996)

Margie Butler, Paul Espinoza and Florie Brown combine their musical and vocal talents as Golden Bough, a name derived from the magical mistletoe. In keeping with that theme, they have selected mystical musical celebrations of Christmas -- the season of the mistletoe.

In this faraway Celtic land, Christmas starts off with a lively attempt to "Drive the Cold Winter Away." Soon, "Christmas Bells" are ringing and we are whisked away to "O'Rourke's Feast" to listen to "The Humours of Flynn." "Dear Joseph" reminds us of Jesus' father, often the least recognized person of the nativity. Next are some Irish dance tunes -- "Oich Nollag" kindles the fire in hearth, while "Green Grows the Holly" and "The Holly and the Ivy Girl" bear winter fruits. "The Raddle Man" appears with red fruits, and soon "Christmas Morning" is upon us. Christmas wouldn't be complete without "Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" or the glorious peals of "A New Year's Song." The celebration continues with "The Snow Storm/Christmas Eve/Snow on the Hills." Golden Bough then sneaks in a favourite French Christmas carol, "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella," and "Bring Us a Bowl." Then it's "Farewell on a Cold Winter's Day" as the festivities come to an end.

Celtic carols adorned with the sounds of Celtic harps, recorders, tin whistles, bodhran, guitars, accordions, octave-mandolin, piano, violin and viola transport us joyfully to a Celtic land. Certainly the music this trio makes on these instruments conjures pure magic. However, I found the vocals (of both singers) to be disappointing, not the "pristine blend of harmonies" that were promised. While I enjoyed certain vocal selections more than others, on the whole, I would have rather enjoyed the rose of the music without the thorns.

[ by Lynne Remick ]
Rambles: 30 December 2001