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MidWinter, FREE REED
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The Independent Culture

Seasonally sated? Need a traditional remedy for excessive religiosity and commercialism? MidWinter is just the thing. This four-CD set reflects not just the Christian customs, but various pagan midwinter celebrations and rituals that predate it. The material is compiled with admirable disdain for generic niceties, mingling folk songs, blues, poetry, wassails, carols and fragments of plays and gospel readings, imaginatively sequenced and annotated: in one section, Grace Notes' "The River", lamenting a lack of ice for skating, leads into John Fahey's guitar instrumental "Skater's Waltz", overlaid with spoken excerpts from Arthur Ransome's autobiography and Wordsworth's Prelude. It's a treasure trove of the bizarre and beautiful, from the Mabe Choir's stirring "Sound, Sound Your Instrument of Joy" to the bickering blues of "Papa Ain't No Santy Claus" ("... and your mama sure ain't no Christmas tree!"), with fascinating sections on folk traditions. Christmas? You don't know the half of it.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Sound, Sound Your Instrument of Joy', 'Papa Ain't No Santy Claus', 'Apple Tree Wassail', 'Song to Mithras', 'The Meadowhall Carol'

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