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A blog for Joe Henry fans


zondag 23 november 2014

The Wexford Carols : "It brings extra beauty in our home."





‘Ireland’s greatest Christmas music’ is written on the back of the CD I have in front of me.
Yes, it is Christmas music, but naming this a Christmas album would not honor this album enough. A Christmas album is one that gets played in the appropriate period and then disappears in the attic for a year, together with all the decorations. This album does not fit that picture. No, it will find its place between all my CD’s, because it is not merely a great ‘Christmas album’, it simply is … ‘a great album’.

“Another victim of time, this Devereux carol is no longer sung in Wexford and its tune has been forgotten.”
This quote about ‘A virgin queen in Bethlehem’ in the booklet represents maybe the importance of this album. Caitríona O’Leary has been fascinated by the Wexford Carols for over 20 years, and brings them back to live. She has done a lot of research to bring this music, with the utmost respect to the original tunes. This fact alone makes it a must have, since the original music seemed lost. 

But there is much more. I have been listening to it now for a couple of weeks and it brings extra beauty in our home.
I had never heard Caitríona’s music. She has a wonderful voice, and an amazing vocal range. The first words of opening track ‘Tell Shepherds’ immediately set the atmosphere. With merely these 2 words she grabs your attention, and keeps it for the entire album. 

She is accompanied on the album by 3 guests. Rhiannon Giddens brings us a wonderful version of  ‘Now to conclude our Christmas Mirth’, Tom Jones sings ‘The Angell said to Joseph Mild’ like I never heard him sing before, and Rosanne Cash gently lays me down on a pillow with ‘Behold three kings’.  Apart from these songs, they all bring their welcome contribution to several songs. 

Lots of great ‘listening’ songs, but also songs like ‘An angel this bright Midnight’ which is a very rhythmical, hypnotic and joyful song, and in the end ‘Christmas day is come’ swings us to the closing track of the album : ‘The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol’, which is sung by these four wonderful voices in close harmony. 

Joe Henry produced this album, and he did it with the same respect Caitríona treated the history of The Wexford Carols. He also brought in longtime collaborator and Sound engineer Ryan Freeland. It’s like not 1 instrument or voice is pushed to the back. You can hear it all so clear, each littlest sound. It’s like all these musicians are live in the room with me.  They all deserve a big applause. And yes, I will name all of them, so stand up : Dónal Lumny, John Smith, Adrian Hart, ´Éamonn de Barra, Kate Ellis, Greg Cohen, Mel Mercier and Graham Hopkins. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone)

All this delivered with a wonderful lay-out. Even the booklet got the deserved treatment. Great photos by Laelia Milleri, accompanied by info on the separate tunes and history on the Carols.


If all this doesn’t convince you to get this album, then still do, and listen to it. That will do the trick.

Now let’s give it another spin.

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