Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If on a Winter's Night presents an arc of songs that conjure the season of spirits, the eerie silences of the snow; days of solitude and reflection for some, a time of re-birth and celebration for many. With traditional music of the British Isles as their starting point, Sting and his guest musicians draw the listener in through a collection of songs, carols, and lullabies spanning the centuries - such as The Snow it Melts the Soonest (traditional Newcastle ballad), Soul Cake (traditional English "begging" song) Gabriel's Message (14th century carol), as well as two of Sting's own compositions - Lullaby for an Anxious Child and The Hounds of Winter. Also featured on the album is Hurdy Gurdy Man - a musical reworking and English translation (by Sting) of Der Leiermann from Schubert's classic winter song-cycle Winterreise. For this exploration of the themes and emotions of winter Sting is joined by friend and long time colleague, guitarist Dominic Miller - and an ensemble of three remarkable musicians from Northern England and Scotland: Kathryn Tickell (fiddle and Northumbrian pipes) Julian Sutton (melodian) and Mary MacMaster (metal string Scottish harp). Additional guest artists include Vincent Ségal (cello), Daniel Hope (violin), Chris Botti (trumpet), Ibrahim Maalouf (trumpet), Stile Antico (vocal ensemble), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Bijan Chemirani (percussion) and the Webb Sisters (vocals). Together they've created an album with a wonderful, warm, and unique ensemble sound - an acoustic meditation on winter.

Tracks :

"Gabriel's Message" (2:34)
"Soul Cake" (3:29)
"There is No Rose of Such Virtue" (4:04)
"The Snow It Melts the Soonest" (3:44)
"Christmas at Sea" (4:38)
"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" (2:42)
"Cold Song" (3:16)
"The Burning Babe" (2:45)
"Now Winter Comes Slowly" (3:06)
"The Hounds of Winter" (5:51)
"Balulalow" (3:10)
"Cherry Tree Carol" (3:12)
"Lullaby for an Anxious Child" (2:50)
"The Hurdy-Gurdy Man" (2:51)
"You Only Cross My Mind in Winter" (2:36)

Monday, December 13, 2010


And what a dream it is! Here's a challenge: how do you describe a great album when you can't understand the lyrics? The album's name is `Traum', which is the German word for dream. Dream-like is as perfect a description as any for this surreal folk. The music is acoustic and often accompanied by flute and dark organ/mellotron. "Waren wir" and the title track, which open and close the album respectively are the most complete songs; they feature the entire band: drum, bass, organ, flute, acoustic guitar. The drummer, whose listed name is simply Michael, is essential to these tracks. His rock-jazz style lends these two tracks an ominous urgency that carries them (and the album as a whole) far above and beyond the rest of the folk-rock that was whizzing about at that time. My favorite is the title track for its funky undertone-some great conga and violin playing on it also. In between the first and last track are some of the dreamiest, acoustic songs you will ever hear. The lead singer, Nanny, is downright haunting as she is accompanied by flute on most of these songs. "peter" sounds like a traditional minstrel song you'd hear in a tavern on a dark night. "strohhalm", which means straw, is an Indian influenced bit complete with tablas and flute. "requiem fur einen wicht", or a requiem for a dwarf or miserable person, shifts moods spectacularly in its middle going from acoustic narrative to full-fledged bass and drum workout and yet still somehow remains grounded in its folky theme. "erwachen", or awaken, is a more medieval song and probably the most fairy-tale like. "wetterbericht", or weather report, is a quiet song with a nice guitar solo. On a side note, this album was crafted in 1970. Another German band at that time, Broselmaschine, was to make their own fantastic splash a year later. That album, like Traum, featured amazing, stream-of-consciousness acoustic folk. Two of Broselmaschine's musicians were guest artists on `strohhalm' providing the tables and sitar.

Tracks :

1. Waren wir (4:53)
2. "Peter" (2:52)
3. Strohhalm (2:20)
4. Reqiem für einen Wicht (6:32)
5. Erwachen (4:20)
6. Wetterbericht (6:34)
7. Traum (7:20)

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