There are few feelings more special than the knowledge that you’re safe and warm inside as Winter grips the world outside your front door. This mini-album achieves the dual role of creating a wooden glade softly hushed by new fallen snow and the music you’d want to listen to when looking out on it. The five songs on Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter’s Evening are traditional with a capital T - there are subtle remixes or older versions of the songs by The Rowan Amber Mill available as exclusives via Bandcamp.
The Rowan Amber Mill describe their particular take on music as woodland folkadelica - think Mediaeval troubadours meet progressive pastoralists. Morrison has a lilting voice that’s seen service across a number of musical genres including jazz. The combination results in songs, even those you know well, being presented with earthy, organic instrumentation over which her ethereal vocals glide, sometimes on beat but occasionally just behind it. The sensation is not unpleasant, but feels purposefully unsettling. You could be forgiven for seeing images of ghosts as well as angels flitting through the trees, leaving no tread in the snow. This is Winter with an edge.
Silent Night and I Saw Three Ships are pleasant renditions of songs deeply embedded in the British psyche. Sleepy Woodyard, a Stephen Stannard original, and the longer Cold Winter Morning allow the musicians to stretch themselves a little more, the former instrumental, the latter a vehicle for piano runs and double-tracked vocals.
Perhaps the song that sums up the record best is the last, Wassail. A nod to truly pre-Christian traditions where orchards are toasted to ward away evil spirits, it neatly encapsulates the duality of the album, the breadth of musicianship and the cosy yet cautious listener who can delight in this seasonal offering whilst trying not to look from the corner of their eye.Paul Woodgate
Released December 8 through Millersounds.
1. Silent Night
2. Cold Winter’s Morning
3. I Saw Three Ships
4. Sleepy Woodyard