THE OUTSIDE TRACK – Christmas Star (own label)

Christmas StarFor their sixth studio album The Outside Track turn their attention to Christmas. But Christmas Star isn’t a jolly carol singalong nor a roll-up-the-carpet-and-party-till-dawn sort of record – although ‘Christmas Eve Party’ might tempt you. Of course, we’re not going to have that sort of Christmas this year and although Christmas Star includes carols and tunes for dancing it is more considered and reflective; the perfect Christmas album for 2020.

The opener is the jolly ‘Christmas In Killarney’ which dates from the 1950s and exemplifies happier times, although in post-war austerity the emphasis was on home, family and friends rather than rampant consumerism. I’ve never heard ‘Silent Night’ sung in Gaelic before but ‘Oíche Chiúin’ is just that with Theresa Horgan’s voice resting lightly on Allie Robertson’s harp and the backing vocals providing the requisite angelic choir.

‘Winter Jigs’ raise the tempo a little but they are for a dance in the front parlour rather than a ceilidh and they raise the spirits for ‘Joy To The World’. Sigerson Clifford’s lovely ‘The Kerry Christmas Carol’ re-imagines the Holy Family’s journey in rural Ireland and I’m so surprised that I’ve never heard it before. ‘Carol Of The Bells’ is an instrumental version of a Ukrainian melded with a Cape Breton reel and then we return to the Gaelic with ‘Tàladh Chrìosda’ (The Christ Child’s Lullaby). The title track comes from the pen of Mairi Rankin’s sister, Heather, and brings an almost Buddhist philosophy to the Christian story.

After ‘Christmas Eve Party’ is the melancholy of ‘There’s Still My Joy’ highlighting the eventual triumph of joy over grief through the metaphor of an old Christmas tree after the festivities are over. It was originally recorded and released by Melissa Manchester more than twenty years ago and has been much covered since. Finally…what else but ‘Auld Lang Syne’?  Christmas Star brings together all the emotions that the season brings in a considered and thoughtful way – a shining star amid our gloom.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Auld Lang Syne’ – official video: