Friday, 23 December 2011

My favourite Christmas album

It's that time of year again. Just two days to go and the shops are full of people running around like headless chickens trying to find that last elusive Christmas gift, while through the sound systems wafts an endless onslaught of inane, relentlessly joyful and soulless 'classics'. And because they're classics, it's the same twenty songs going round and round in every shop you'll visit in December, on every TV program and, if you're really unlucky (I am), even in your office.
Gretchen Peters' Northern Lights is the perfect antidote to all that. The album combines Peters' clear soprano with a bleak, Appalachian feel to produce an album that's just the thing for sitting indoors with on a cold, snowy winter's night in front of the fire (whiskey optional). It's an album of solitude and contemplation, a world away from the forced jollity that can often characterise the festive season, and, while it may sound potentially depressing, that melancholy is warming and comforting.

The album contains songs by contemporary songwriters, as well as traditional carols and newly written tracks, all in Peters' own distinctive style. My personal favourites come from all three categories: 'Waitin' On Mary', drawing beautiful parallels between the nativity story and the poor and destitute around the world today; the Gordon Lightfoot-penned 'Song for A Winter's Night', which sets the bleak, melancholy feel of the album perfectly; and the carols 'Coventry Carol' and 'In the Bleak Midwinter', two songs that I've loved for many years but which are given new life by Peters' take on them.

Because she's a lovely lady, Gretchen has put all twelve of the tracks on YouTube in a playlist (though not in the right order, tsk Gretchen!), but if you enjoy listening to the album, please consider buying it, either from your usual digital retailer or from Peters' own store.

Have a lovely Christmas. I know what I'll be listening to.

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