Oak Leaf 2118 - 2004
A collection of traditional English, Welsh, French and other
Amid the deluge of seasonal recordings that surface in the waning months of every year, few are more welcome than the beautifully woven and richly evocative CDs produced by guitarist-lutenist Linn Barnes and Celtic harpist Allison Hampton. "Holly Eve" is the latest example of their gift for imbuing traditional holiday tunes, drawn from around the world and in several instances centuries old, with a glowing warmth and a courtly grace.
The album opens on a relatively modern note with "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," a sparkling showcase for Barnes and Hampton's dovetailing string work, Joseph Cunliffe's flute and Steve Bloom's percussion. Before long, though, Barnes and Hampton (or the quartet) are reviving older pieces with care and clarity, whether it's Gustav Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter," the ancient Welsh harp tune "Nos Galan" (a.k.a. "Deck the Halls") or the charming 19th-century Polish carol "Gdy sliczna Panna (As the Lovely Maiden)." "Breton Carol," a piece the Chieftains have recorded, is another delight, with its engaging lilt, and the sole Provencal offering, "March of the Kings," boasts percussive textures and a regal air.
Briefly punctuating the vintage tunes are two complementary pieces composed by Barnes and Hampton: "The Shades of Notre Dame," which features Barnes on bass viol, and the shimmering "La Lune de Noel." — Mike Joyce, The Washington Post
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