Magic Touch is the Albion Christmas Band’s very special Christmas present, brightly wrapped in seasonal images painted in song, tune and spoken word, this album will delight stalwart Albion fans and those newer to their music. Ashley Hutchings is joined by Simon Nicol, Kellie While and Simon Care, a real all-star cast, together with multi-instrumentalist Ruth Angell co-writing and playing on several tracks. You just know this will be an excellent festive offering.
There are several seasonal favourites among the tracks on Magic Touch. Chosen by the band because it captured the true essence of Christmas, See Amid the Winter’s Snow has inspired vocal and instrumental harmonies and does indeed makes a real connection with the listener. Kellie While’s vocals in Silent Night are gentle and contemplative bringing a real sense of wonder to this much loved carol.
The band have always had a great ear for good tunes and sets. In Webley Twizzle / Fairytale of New York this is taken to a higher plain, pairing this Bampton Morris tune with Shane McGowan’s famed Christmas tale works so well. Melodeon, guitars and bells topped with a rousing chorus at the end will definitely get you smiling and your feet tapping.
Hutchings and Angell co-wrote two of the tracks. The first, Christmas Bells Begin to Chime, is a sweet, sentimental song full of warm melancholic images which take you back to childhood, rich in instrumentation, very full and satisfying. In There’s a Light Shining Over Bethlehem, melodeon, guitar and pizzicato fiddle complement Kellie While’s excellent vocals in this beautiful new song telling the nativity story and deserving of recognition as a new Christmas classic.
Headington Medley sees Hutchings recounting the historic meeting of Cecil Sharpe and William Kimber on 26 December 1899, (without which English music and dance tradition may not quite have survived as intact). This is accompanied by Laudanum Bunches on melodeon and followed by Rigs of Marlow and Getting Upstairs, which are given an Albion upbeat treatment. Hutchings also performs touching seasonal prose and poetry in Snow and in Stop By Woods on a Snowy Evening.
In Magic Touch, the Albion Christmas Band have delivered an excellent album that will take you to Christmas past whilst looking forward to festive seasons yet to come. It blends old with new, melancholy with hope and reflection with joy. They do indeed have a magic touch in consistently bringing forward excellent words, songs and tunes, over the years, which continue to appeal and entertain legions of fans new and old.Andy McMillan
Released on 28 November 2016 on Talking Elephant Records.
1. See Amid The Winter’s Snow
2. December in New York
3. Minstrel’s Song
4. In Bethlehem City
5. Webley Twizzle / Fairytale of New York
6. Gower Wassail
7. Ghost Story
8. Christmas Bells Begin to Chime
9. Hampshire Mummers’ Christmas Carol
10. Snow, an excerpt
11. Christmas Eve, 1914
12. Silent Night
13. Headington Medley
14. Stop by Woods on a Snowy Evening
15. There’s a Light Shining Over Bethlehem