With Christmas looming it is the time of year where bands of all sorts bring us festively themed music. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker have brought us a limited edition release called Midwinter that gives us 12 adaptations of much loved Christmas songs.
The idea when releasing new Christmas music is to make it different and unique to the other versions of those songs, particularly if they are well known songs as many in this album are. It is then the challenge of the artists to make them stand out. It must be difficult to do songs such as O Little Town of Bethlehem and Silent Night in a way that is different.
Josienne and Ben have done a great job of doing that, using soft and soothing vocals with matching guitar strums to give us soft festive music. One of the great merits to this duo is how they have kept a very simple arrangement, avoiding the temptation to blast the listener with a wide variety of sounds and instruments.
Adam Lay Ybounden has only the gentlest in backing instrumentation and lets Josienne’s vocals envelop the listener in the full tale. We get a similar pattern with O Little Town of Bethlehem which is a blend of her angelic voice and Ben’s expert guitar playing.
Both musicians keep us focused on the music and with Ben Walker’s playing matching Josienne’s singing perfectly it is easy to simply get lost in the songs. Adding to this is how recognisable and well-known most of the songs are; it gives it that element of familiarity that helps people get drawn in. Many of the tunes are so well known that it adds a great element of fun that listeners can sing along themselves if they choose, adding to their experience. In particular this is set up in We Three Kings.
Another perk to this Christmas release is the variety of sound, each song is well adapted to the particular song so some may be soft and gentle and then others are more jazzy almost, like their take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
This is a great Christmas release that has paid off very well. If you are not already in the Christmas mood then this may be the album to help you get there.Paul Rawcliffe
Self Released December 2013
1. In the Bleak Midwinter
2. Adam Lay Ybounden
3. O Little Town of Bethlehem
4. Away in a Manger
5. Once in Royal David’s City
6. Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
8. We Three Kings
9. Shepherds Arise
11. Silent Night
12. The Twelve Days of Christmas