And now, a brand-new instrumental offering from BC's own Spencer Capier:
Artist: Spencer Capier
Label: Independent, 2010
I really don't know anything about music, which makes me shy in writing about an album from a guy who know a whole heck of a lot about it and uses that knowledge so very well. But, if my halting, yet appreciative, words can convince only one person to make the leap of faith to buy this exceptional collection, then exposing my ignorance in so blatant a fashion will be well worth it.
I have only a digital copy of this album — having had urgent need of it about three weeks ago, and no way to possess it immediately other than downloading the whole shebang from iTunes (sorry, FTL). That means, of course, I have no listing of the instruments used on this album (though even my untrained ears can detect a host of the usual suspects — violin, bouzouki, and mandolin), nor whether any of the songs on it are original Capier compositions or obscure seasonal hymns pulled and polished for our pleasure. I can really only tell you what I like about it, which is actually quite a lot, really.
So, with that lengthy disclaimer out of the way, welcome to Christmas Instrumental! Isn't the cover art gorgeous? I love the clever guitar trees and the wee perched bird. I have a weakness for cheerful bright red, too. It is very pleasing to the eye. And, the album's inside matches its outside.
The opening track is "We Three Kings." This upbeat rendition of an often melancholy classic sets the tone for the rest of the album — imaginative and complex and tinged with eclectic charm. Flowing next is "In Dulci Jubilo," a song I was not familiar with, but one of my favorites from Christmas Instrumental. I love the way it builds on joyful note after joyful note, with a nice rollicking beat in the background.
Here is an interesting thing about the collection of songs on this album: You so rarely can sing along. Christmas songs are ubiquitous in the minds of North Americans. They are such a part of our cultural DNA, that any instrumental Christmas album runs the risk of being overshadowed by a boisterous outbreak of spontaneous singing on the part of those who really ought to be listening to the music. Spencer has skirted this issue by choosing many songs that give a distinct wintry feel without being well-known to the larger, sing-along public. This allows the gift of the music itself to really shine through.
A slower favorite on this album is "Not One Sparrow is Forgotten." Spencer abandons the sprightly Eastern eclat for a moment to offer a sweet, sad Celtic-flavored song. There is a calm center to this album, with a series of songs that evoke so easily wintry nights and firesides and long conversations with old friends interrupted by comfortable silences and trips into the kitchen to refill your mug of mulled wine or hot buttered rum. "In the Bleak Midwinter" is finding a lot of acclaim, I've noticed — and rightly so. Such a lovely, and yet again rather sad, song — one whose music matches well the poem on which it was based.
I must confess that I do love when the album turns toward offering more well-known and frisky songs near the end (though I can rarely resist the temptation to add my most-unwelcomed voice to the mix). "Ding-Dong Merrily on High" is fun — even without a group of Welsh miners singing along. Probably my very favorite on this album, though, is "Here We Come a Wassailing." It's got some sort of sound to it — darn it Justine! you ought to have payed better attention in music classes at Auggie! — I dunno . . . polka? Is it blasphemous to even suggest polka? Well, whatever it is, it rocks!
"Auld Lang Syne" tops off this excellent offering, appropriately nostalgic and bluesy. You won't want it to end; but, it will. Lucky you, you smart fellow! You bought the album and now you can start over again from track one! This is an album that is definitely going into the "decorating the tree" rotation, and will also be on "driving around in the freezing rain while stuck in Christmas traffic" duty and — hopefully — will eventually make it to the aforementioned and highly desirable "hanging out with friends in front of a fire enjoying wintry drinks" round-up. Thank you, Spencer, for giving us this beautiful Christmas present! Merry Christmas!