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Album Spotlight: Allison Crowe - Tidings

[Note: as of October 2009, Tidings is no longer available for free from Allison Crowe's site.  This issue is currently being looked into.  In the meantime, the traditional half of the album can still be downloaded for free from Jamendo.]

Oh, have I got a treat for you tonight. As you may or may not have noticed in the comments for my last post, Allison Crowe's manager, Adrian, mentioned that there is more free Christmas music to be found on Allison's Tidings page. I checked that site out before heading to work today and was amazed to find that the entire album is available for download. I downloaded the songs onto my flash drive so that I could listen to them at work today, and I was simply amazed by what I heard.

The first thing that struck me, even before I had heard a single note, was the song selection. There are the traditional Christmas carols that one almost expects to hear on a Christmas album; songs like "Silent Night", "O Holy Night", "The First Noel". Joni Mitchell's "River" also makes an appearance; as this has become one of my favourite Christmas songs (even though it's not really "about" Christmas per se - but more on that in a later post), I was happy to have another version of it. Then there are some songs that have even less to do with Christmas, but more about "spirituality and redemption" (as the album's Wikipedia article states); among these songs are Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Sarah McLachlan's "Angel", and a pair of Beatles songs, "Let It Be" and "In My Life". An intriguing lineup of songs, to say the very least - it looks like this is an album that can be enjoyed at any time of year.

After listening to the album, I am practically speechless. Just hearing this music has made me feel like I received an early Christmas present. I don't think my words could possibly do it justice, but I'll try to describe it as best I can; after all, if you've read this far it likely means that you want a little more information before heading over to her site and listening for yourself. Allison is clearly a very gifted performer. Her voice is so powerful that it sometimes seems to overpower the recording equipment; I can only imagine that seeing her perform live would be an unforgettable experience. She also accompanies her vocals with her own accomplished piano playing; most of the songs actually consist only of vocals and piano. It's nice to hear such refreshing arrangements of many of these songs. I think the real standout of the album is "Hallelujah", which she performs with a passion and intensity that is rarely heard in a cover version; she really manages to make the song her own. Some other highlights include "Angel", which features another powerhouse of a vocal performance; "O Holy Night", which is given an upbeat, jazzy treatment unlike any I've ever heard; and the a capella album opener, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear".

Now, please go and check the album out for yourself. I'd love to know what my readers think about it, so please leave a comment here if you listen to it. Enjoy!

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