British folk group mixes rural traditions with Christmas

Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:04am EST
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By Jeremy Gaunt

MAIDENHEAD, England (Reuters) - As its name might suggest, The Albion Christmas Band has a limited sell-by date musically speaking. There is little demand for songs celebrating holly and ivy in August.

That said, the band - which includes some of British folk-rock's best-known performers - is currently on its 12th seasonal tour, proving that there is little more Christmassy than a blast of Anglo-Celtic roots music.

A recent performance at Norden Farm, a rural-ish venue some way out to the west of London, was a case in point.

From the opening 19th century "Sans Day Carol" through the medieval "Cherry-Tree Carol," the band took the audience deep into Britain's winter festival with visions of frosty mornings, a rejoicing Earth, burning logs and berries.

All delivered with professional flair mixed with tones redolent of a rustic English village

"We have shed a light into every little dark corner of Christmas that we can find," said guitarist and vocalist Simon Nicol, enjoying a side-project with the band from his full-time job at folk-rock group Fairport Convention.

Along the way was a magnificent rendition of the Tears for Fears classic "Mad World" - not a Christmas special per se, but certainly in the spirit of the thing.

The song was taken to gorgeous vocal heights by singer Kellie While, a more-than-worthy successor in her mid-30s to folk-rock divas from the late 1960s/early 1970s such as Steeleye Span's Maddy Pryor and Fairport's Sandy Denny.   Continued...