Friday, November 25, 2011

CD Review – A Midnight Clear: Christmas in Mitford, by Bill Leslie

Bill Leslie’s latest CD is a yuletide offering that serves as a soundtrack to Christmas in Mitford, a mythical mountain village that provides the basis for a series of best-selling novels by Jan Karon, who also designed the stunning winter wonderland scene for the album cover.

Although many of the song titles are based on characters and situations from Mitford, you don’t have to be familiar with Karon’s literary universe in order to appreciate the disc, which also contains traditional favorites and is full of the spirit of the holidays.

Leslie plays his trademark acoustic guitar and piano, as well as Celtic whistles and keyboards, and is joined by a solid lineup of musicians on violin, cello, oboe, guitar, piano, and percussion. The mostly acoustic instrumentation gives the music a warm, down-home, hearty feel, keeping with the vibe of the season.

My favorite tracks on the album are “Mitford Carol,” “Wexford Carol,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” and “Father Tim.” The simple beauty of these tunes best exemplifies the quiet awe and tranquil majesty of this particular time of the winter.

That being said, the entire album is a joy to listen to. Leslie and his band are virtuosic without being showy or flashy, and the compositions, arrangements, and performances will put you in the mood to celebrate Christmas in Mitford, or wherever you are.

--Raj Manoharan

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