various artists,
Comfort & Joy:
A Christmas Celtic Sojourn

(Rounder, 2003)

'Tis the season for Christmas carols and melodies. For the second year, Brian O'Donovan, host of A Celtic Sojourn for WGBH 89.7 in Boston, collaborates with Rounder Records located across the Charles River in Cambridge to compile Comfort & Joy: A Christmas Celtic Sojourn. This is a CD I could easily listen to all year round.

The artists on the CD include Maddy Prior, Cherish the Ladies, Boys of the Lough, Robbie O'Connell and Nowell Sing We Clear, among others, and the selections and arrangement of the CD are superb. The songs and tunes range from the traditional to original compositions, and all fit together beautifully.

The musical arrangements contribute greatly to the success of the CD such as the bassoon in Maddy Prior's "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" and the shawms and bodhran in "The Boar's Head." The beat of a bodhran also enhances "The Little Drummer Boy," performed by Cherish the Ladies and featuring their exquisite harmonies. Cherish the Ladies' performance of "O Holy Night/Cill Chais" featuring new vocalist Heidi Talbot is absolutely lovely as well.

J.S. Bach goes Celtic in Druidstone's interpretation of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and Druidstone's harpist Aine Minogue performs a lovely and haunting rendition of "The Horn Dance," also known as "Abbots Bromley." Other high points include -- but are not limited to -- Robbie O'Connell's "The Three Kings," Dordan's "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and a stunning set from Cherish the Ladies, "The Distressed Soldier/Angels We Have Heard on High/The Fairy Reel."

There are oodles of CDs with Christmas themes out there, but Comfort & Joy is a true standout; every track is outstanding. If you only buy one Christmas CD this year, make it this one. It's that good!

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 13 December 2003

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