Lydia McCauley,
The Moon of Wintertime
(Brimstone, 2002)

The Moon of Wintertime by Lydia McCauley is a beautifully produced and presented CD. The cover art and text betray its spiritual and traditional origins and in many ways add to the overall experience. The tunes and songs here are derived from many sources and times and yet they combine old and new compositions. There are Celtic, medieval and world music elements.

The title track has music from France, lyrics dating from around 1643 with an English translation in 1926 and an adaptation in 2002 by McCauley. From this mixture she has produced lyrical magic that will uplift the spirits. On "Gifts of the Magi," she takes full control, writing and arranging. The result is a 21st century song that would not have raised eyebrows in medieval courts.

"Good King Wenceslas" and the former track make this an ideal Christmas CD if one is looking for traditional with a twist, but this is an all-year-round CD so don't restrict your enjoyment to two weeks a year. You are a connoisseur of good music so be free. On hearing McCauley sing this song so sadly seen only as a carol, you must recognise it as a classic of good composition. The music may date from 1582 but this is 2003 sound.

"Childgrove" and "Ideo Gloria" are two exceptional instrumental tracks that will haunt your mind and transport you back in time to a glorious age of madrigal and courtly love. McCauley takes an Appalachian song, "Down in Yon Forest," and gives it an interpretation that is probably closer to the original tune that traveled to the U.S. There is a very special bonus on this track. McCauley sings her version of the song, which is followed immediately by an arrangement by Brian Cunningham. This shows how an old song can be interpreted to give two or more distinct songs. Listen only to this track and marvel.

Another song from the Appalachians is "Star of the East." The music moves to Italy for the instrumental "Trotto." Then, moving to the British Isles, we find that great refrain "Bring Us Good Ale," a traditional song that gets the McCauley treatment with a chorus of all those involved in making this top-class CD.

This is NOT a Christmas CD, it is an album that should be played in sunshine, hail and snow. At Christmas it will give you a welcome respite from maudlin seasonal trash but we deserve good music 365 days each year and Lydia McCauley provides it.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 5 July 2003

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