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World Music CD Reviews Celtic & Irish


By Tom Pryor
Published September 9, 2005

On Christmas Night
Big Mammy Records

Cold Blow These Winter Winds: A Celtic Collection
Green Linnet

I'm not really sure when Irish and Celtic music became such a holiday staple. Growing up in my Irish-American household, Christmas was the time of the year when my folks passed over their well-worn Chieftains records in favor of more traditional holiday fare. But I'm not complaining, since these days December usually ushers in more than a few records that I wouldn't mind finding under the tree. This year's batch includes a fresh outing from New York's favorite Irish-American all-girl band, Cherish the Ladies, and an unusual selection of Christmas carols performed live in Edinburgh by some of the biggest names in Scottish and British folk music. On Christmas Night finds Joanie Madden and her Ladies in fine fettle, giving an Irish gloss to such familiar Christmas chestnuts as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "The Little Drummer Boy," while fluidly segueing into festive reels and jigs like "The Kerry Reel" and "The Cordial Jig." On Cold Blow These Winter Winds, such luminaries as Rory Campbell, Andy Lang, Eliza Carthy, Mary MacMaster and more ring in the season with moody, jazzy, minor-key performances. With such offbeat tracks as "Blue December," "Blue Christmas" and a rendition of the Pogues' immortally profane "Fairytale Of New York," this may be one of the most gorgeous evocations of seasonal affective disorder ever recorded.