Monday, November 28, 2011

CD Review: “A Winters Gathering” Shauna Burns


A Winter Gathering

With Thanksgiving past, I am now officially lifting my boycott of all things Christmas, and it’s hard to beat this album for holiday music.

It’s ethereal, possesses a quite beauty, and warms the heart. It evokes snow falling while you set in front of a fire with a cup of tea or maybe you have wandered into a pub during a snow storm and found a local angel playing winter soundscapes on an old upright piano. The songs are peaceful, relaxing and instantly warm you as you grab a pint from the bar and gather with the other shelter-seekers in front of the fire. They are delivered more as memories, warm and welcome, than as a set list.

The music is Celtic in flavor served on dishes of folk balladry. Some songs will be familiar, others are new compositions and updates what a Christmas song ought to be. There are even non Christmas songs, but they feel right at home in this atmosphere.

Shauna Burns not only delivers these dozen Christmas songs in a voice both peaceful, deep and rangy but performs them on the piano with grace. Her husband, James Clark (who also co-produces) is on drums and guest performers Caroline Kemper (Celtic harp), Rick Kemper (Uilleann pipes & pennywhistle), Lindsey Springer (cello), Ryan Whyte Maloney (guitar,backing vocals) and a five piece vocal choir help to set the atmosphere of a Celtic Christmas.

One of the rising stars on the Indie music scene, Burns music is spiritual in nature as well as exploratory, and has garnered her a few number one hits in the Triple AAA radio format.

Here’s a taste of Burns, this is from the album The Moon and The Fire Circle.

“Bloom” Shauna Burns

The songs and songscapes included here begin with “Winter Star” which the artist describes as the star in the East that the shepherds see in "The First Noel". Burns sings Gaelic words that speak about this bright new presence in the world and that feeling of wonder travels through the other songs. "Carol of the Bells," “White Christmas”, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” before the next songscape, “Luma”, which is loosely based on  "Ave Maria". This is where this album succeeds so well. It is more the sound of a friend playing winter melodies by ear and by feel, than a production and, for me, it adds a warmth and a sense of personal joy.

“Silent Night" follows this tone poem and could be thought of as the main theme of the album and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" fits as the anchor of the emotion drawn forth.

"The Gathering," the third songscape, "gathers" the songs, family and friends near and leads the listener into "What a Wonderful World,", not your typical holiday song, but it certainly is welcome in this setting and makes the listener ask why they have never thought of this song as a celebration of the season.

The album ends with two instrumental reprise; “Carol Of The Bells” and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" rendered brilliantly with this very Celtic group of instrumentalists.

Burns ethereal vocal delivery and perfect blend of the piano in sweeping movements seguing into quiet passages both inspire warmth and wonder. With tasteful percussion and drums, in addition to the other instruments that set the ‘feel’ of a welcome refuge from the storm, make this a fresh, yet old fashioned Christmas album. Give it a listen. A Winter Gathering with friends, family and neighbors is what the season should be all about.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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