Icy December a Good Choice for a Holiday Album

Icy December
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I’m on record as saying that I’d prefer orchestral music arranged for jackhammer and dental drills to listening to holiday music. I’m not alone; one of my editors says he’d resign before he ran a review of a Christmas recording. Speaking for myself, I dislike the forced jollity of secular Christmas songs, the contrived sentimentality of the religious ones, the mythical family values wholesomeness, and the fact that I’ve been hearing these songs blast from Christmas Tree Shops since Jesus was a lad. But I do enjoy listening to Beth Leachman-Gadbaw’s vocals so if I must listen to holiday music, I’m glad she’s anchoring Icy December. And I’m doubly glad that Margot Krimmel is there to add crystalline harp.

Credit Leachman-Gadbaw and Krimmel for featuring some of the lesser-known seasonal songs, such as the title track, “Gloucestershire Wassail,” “The Donkey and the Doves,” and the old-timey influenced “When Jesus Lived in Galilee.” They also offer some unfamiliar but fine things from the Celtic realm such as “Prayer for St. Brigid” and the beautiful Turlough O’Carolan harp composition “Loftus Jones.” Kudos also for mixing in original pieces such as Krimmel’s “Before the Snow” and the co-written “Song of Peace.” Krimmel is equally at home with folk, jazz, and classical harp, but on this album she opts mostly for glassy notes, colder tones, and introspective moods–all appropriate for the season. For her part, Leachman-Gadbaw indulges her passion for Irish music and harmony singing. Like Krimmel she acknowledges the cold, short days, but she also seeks to warm us with spirited cadences and the joyous inflection of her voice, one with just the right blend of youth and maturity.

Okay, so there isn’t much that’s going to make me warm to “The First Noel” or “What Child Is This?” but I immensely enjoyed the things that didn’t make visions of Bing Crosby dance in my head. So maybe I’m only a Grinch-in-training. --Rob Weir

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