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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Frost Bites by Belshazzar's Feast

Belshazzar's Feast are the well known pair, Paul Sartin (vocals, fiddle, oboe and cor anglais) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion), who have a strong reputation for excellent musicianship. This album is no exception in that quarter.

As might be deduced from the title this CD is a seasonal one and the theme is a traditional musical celebration of Christmas. They kick off in fine style with an Appalachian version of The Cherry Tree Carol followed by a slow air called Yuleogy. Their lively version of King Herod and the Cock is followed again by another tune called Parson's Farewell taken from Playford's English Dancing Master.

Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day is a fairly well known traditional song collected in Cornwall by William Sandys and features very effective backing vocals from Jennifer Bailey. There follows three rather slow numbers which might have been better distributed within the album to break up the tempo. There's nothing wrong with any of them in terms of performance, of course, my criticism is merely on their programming. In fact, Lonesome Scenes of Winter is a particularly poignant song and would have stood out even more in between more up tempo tracks. However, the album is sufficiently interesting that you can easily dip into it as an alternative to listening to it from end to end anyway.

Things move on a pace with the lively Gerald Road Mazurkas composed by Paul H. followed by a version of the Sans Day Carol (The Holly Bears a Berry is another better known title). Walter Pardon's wonderfully amusing love song One Cold Morning in December is well performed by Paul S. at a steady enough pace to bring out the humour.

The album finishes with Hampshire Mummer's Song a carol collected by Lucy Broadwood.

Although potential purchasers of this CD might feel put off because there are 'only' eight tracks a quick look at the sleeve will show that half are in fact double tracks so you aren't being cheated at all! This comment may sound trite but I've actually seen and heard people comment on the 'lack of tracks' on some CDs without them actually delving further as to why.

The sleeve notes on all the songs and tunes are as erudite as you would expect giving the album academic as well as entertainment credence.

Good stuff from the lads.