Talking Elephant 2022
Veterans of folklore travels delve into tradition and novelty to let their fellowship shine ever so brightly.
Mistletoe doesn’t have a scent yet if it did that’s the aroma this album would exude, as the ensemble whose very existence – at least in their seasonal manifestation – is focused on festive spirit of folk deliver an ultimate family-centered offering. Lesser mortals may seem to celebrate Yuletide in style, whereas the collective who started out their rural trips more than five decades ago want their listeners to stay home, in a circle of nearest and dearest, the “safely” in the platter’s title stressing the post-pandemic landscape both hosts and guests have to embrace. Still, despite of each of the musician’s parts preserved for posterity separately, the “gathered in” rings so true here on many a level, and one’s expectancy will be defied and exceeded at the same time – most wonderful time of the year.
That there’s no boisterous merriment on display, is made clear from the beginning, as the album’s opener “If I Were A Carpenter” sets the tone of ultimate intimacy, the evergreen’s updated, Christmas-themed lyrics flowing between male and female vocals to find their way into the souls of the devoted and non-believers alike, while its comfortably drifting titular number sits closer to the platter’s end. However, the unhurriedly jolly “We Won’t Come Home Til Morning” – an Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol’s fiddles-adorned piece alluding lyrically to “Matty Groves” – and the smile-inducing “Royal Dog” have been given deeper places in the running order to dwell as far as possible from the record’s quietly triumphant twelfth track, the finale of the nigh-on chamber “Joy To The World”: the acoustic pinnacle of this effort the foursome hung, like tinsel, in the holidays’ timelessness.
With Simon Care reciting “The Whittlesey Straw Bear Tune” and Marriott Edgar’s brilliant poem “Sam’s Christmas Pudding” to turn it all into a storytellers’ night as well, and Kellie While’s bringing the Guv’nor’s riveting carols “Royal Are We” and “Coming Home To Me” into enchanted eternity, other songs ooze a warm glow which is guaranteed to heat any room. So after Blair Dunlop’s soft tones and electric strum on the pacifying balladry of “Christmas Wreath” and his sire Ashley’s half-spoken, dry words on “The Wind” cross a threshold of the audience’s abode, the cover of Mary Reynolds’ “Days Of Auld Lang Syne” should proffer utter peace of mind to those willing to drink the Yuletide atmosphere before “Birds A’Building Molly Dance” leads its instrumental wonder towards restrained rapture.
It’s allowed when all are safely gathered in.