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Mary Humphreys of Mardles

reviews Frost Bites by Belshazzar's Feast

Well, the Christmas season is drawing nigh and out come the Christmas albums. Hooray! Here is one you can play all year round without feeling you have to apologise to your friends and relations. The musicianship is, as always from this duo, of the highest standard and the arrangements inventive and tasteful.

Paul Sartin's voice improves with every album he produces. A classically-trained singer, he has shed all those mannerisms I associate with cathedral choristers and comes across with a musical and direct voice well-suited to singing traditional song that is a delight to hear. Of course it goes without saying that his diction is faultless! Paul Hutchinson's accordion playing is so crisp and bouncy - you could be forgiven for thinking he was playing a melodeon at times!

We hear two of Paul H's compositions and well worth hearing they are too. We also hear a very local Hampshire Mummers' Song that has some "floating" verses that appear in the Cambridge May Song. Paul S is double-tracked a great deal of the time and on a couple of tracks is enhanced by Jenny Bailey's soprano. Pete Flood adds some beautifully understated percussion occasionally. The arrangements also incorporate Paul Sartinís fiddle, cor Anglais and oboe which, as always, are superbly played. Their contrapuntal accompaniment to Lonesome Scenes of Winter is both surprising and very pleasing.

The CD comprises a predominantly sombre and stately set of songs and tunes with the notable exception of the magnificent rendition of Walter Pardon's One Cold Morning in December where both the singing and the fiddle playing are exceptional. What a welcome change from the forced jollity of Jingle Bells and the like. Put this on after the Christmas pudding and give your ears a feast.