When you’ve hung up all the decorations, decked the tree, wrapped the presents and sent the cards you’ll sit down with a large glass of something. In that moment you might just want some soothing, seasonal music to chill with. The Albion Christmas Band have been providing that soundtrack for over a decade and this gentle collection is the latest delivery in the always welcome, often enchanting series. With a steady line up of Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Simon Care and Kellie While, here augmented by Blair Dunlop, Ruth Angell and Holly Brandon, the usual mix of traditional carols and readings has been slightly diverted into original compositions which cleverly keep the atmospheres and settings of old Yuletide songs and tunes but emerge as thoroughly contemporary.
‘If I Were A Carpenter,’ which is as familiar as a pair of old slippers gets a refit, closing with as a fresh carol in the new lyrics from folk authority Nigel Schofield, Simon Nicol’s vocal is particularly effective and telling. Likewise ‘Christmas Wreath,’ -which has appeared before – sounds different but retains the sentiments found in music which celebrates winter evergreens, neatly strummed guitars and fine vocal cap it as one of the best tracks on the record. Kellie While’s handling of ‘Coming Home To me,’ is deftly simple and Care wraps his box round the melody with a neat counter which swells on Ruth Angell’s fiddle line. ‘Royal Dog,’ turns St. Stephen’s Day hunting on its head as the fox comes out on top – hoorah! The arrangement rolls along on a boozy squeezebox and jaunty guitar. And as they say there is the proverbial ‘much more,’ but then you’ll be discovering that for yourself, won’t you?
Put together and curated by Blair Dunlop in unusual circumstances when the musicians couldn’t all be in one place at the same time, meant that there was much toing and froing on Mr. Dunlop’s behalf as he recorded all the contributor’s parts at diverse locations before knitting it altogether with his fellow producer, Hutchings, into the completed item. Pats on the back all round you’d never know the difference between this and a studio recorded effort. Other traditions touched on include wassailing and The Whittelsey Straw Bear an old East country practice, now happily revived and rejuvenated here by a bouncing rendition of the dance tune which was played as part of the original celebration.
‘All Are Safely Gathered In,’ can’t fail to put a smile on your face, it’s a jocular shot of festivity which acknowledges its British roots and gives them new purpose in the most appropriate of ways. Season’s greetings!