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Christmas time is here again, never failing to create a stir in the music world whether it’s the predicting of the Christmas number one or which well known artists release their own brand of cheesy covers, the bizarre concoction of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John releasing an album certainly tops the lot. But away from commerciality is where a Christmas album can be produced that’s understated, classy and creates a genuine heart warming fuzzy feeling of this most wonderful time. Kirsty Almeida is an artist who creates such an image with her new Christmas album, ‘Winter Songs’. Recorded at Limefield Studios in Middleton, Manchester, she blends classic Christmas songs with her own original workings, crafting an album that captures the real essence of Christmas from both the magic and darker sides of the season.

The ten track album opens with a short, jolly and festive song titled, ‘Merry Christmas (Let’s have fun)’. Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ follows, a toned down, quiet and simple version all to the backing of an acoustic guitar. The classic ‘Winter Wonderland’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ make up the other notable covers. Choosing to be a little different and steer away from covers that are obvious, Kirsty opts to rework a couple of tracks that aren’t as well known, namely ,‘January Man’ by Ian Reynolds and Andy Green’s ‘Shine All Your Light’, which is a favourite of her live shows. Of her original workings, there is the fun and festive ‘Tick Tock Tick’, featuring trumpets to give an added Christmas image. ‘Just Cancel Christmas’ has a very bluesy feel that’s reminiscent of a Phil Spector influenced sound like he used with bands such as ‘The Ronettes’. ‘Cold Lonely Blue is a sensitive folky song that’s quite atmospheric, again succeeding in capturing an illustration of winter and Christmas .

This is a very charming and moving piece of work by Kirsty Almeida, not at all cheesy which is sometimes prematurely expected from a Christmas album. Through the range of specific instruments used by the backing band, and the soulful, velvet voice of Kirsty Almeida herself, the spirit of Christmas can be felt through the very heart of the album. There’s a very relaxed, smooth tone with some very catchy and well written original songs thrown in to keep the album fresh. It’s an excellent alternative album to be played on those Christmas nights spent with your other half, using it as background music to soundtrack a quiet night in with a bottle of wine in preparation for the festivities.

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