Title - Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train
Artist - Paul Kelly
For those unaware, as he gathered the material for his first Christmas album, Paul Kelly soon realized that a collection of 10 seasonal standards could never cover the richness he wanted to convey.
He knew he wanted to make a record that drew out all the emotions and layers of the Christmas story, and in a way that reflected the holiday experience in the southern hemisphere, far removed from the snowy imagery of so many Christmas songs.
The result is an extraordinary 22-song double album that travels across the centuries, from a Latin hymn to well-known carols, from a traditional Irish folk ballad to songs with an unmistakable local flavor, and a sparkling new version of one of the greatest Australian Christmas songs of them all, Kelly’s own How to Make Gravy, scheduled for November 19th, 2021 release on Gawd Aggie / Cooking Vinyl.
2. Silent Night
3. Swing Around the Sun
5. Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
6. Little Drummer Boy
7. Arthur McBride
8. The Virgin Mary Had One Son
9. Tapu Te P? (O Holy Night)
10. Shalom Aleichem
11. The Oxen
12. The Friendly Beasts
13. Three Drovers
14. Christmas Must Be Tonight
15. Surah Maryam
16. Coventry Carol
17. In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day
18. How to Make Gravy
19. Christmas Train
20. Come Thou Font of Every Blessing
21. Intonent Hodie
22. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
This genuinely heartfelt and wholly authentic new holiday album opens on the gentle balladry of Nativity and the lush orchestrations of Silent Night (also featuring Alice Keath and Sime Nugent) and backs those up with the tongue-in-cheek Swing Around the Sun, the jangling guitar of Christmas, the joyous Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) (featuring the Motown-esque vocals of Linda Bull), the effective Little Drummer Boy and then both the mid-tempo storytelling of Arthur McBride and the somber, low slung vocals of Emma Donovan on The Virgin Mary Had One Son.
Up next is the simply divine harmonizing of Tapu Te P? (O Holy Night), and of which also features The Dhungala Children’s Choir and the angelistically harmonized Shalom Aleichem (featuring Lior, Alice Keath and Emily Lubitz) and they are followed by the gentle fare of The Oxen, the spiritual sing-along with both Kasey Chambers and Dan Kelly on The Friendly Beasts, the sweet harmonies of Three Drovers (featuring Alice Keath and Sime Nugent), and then we get the gentle rocker Christmas Must Be Tonight and the atmospheric, relatively spoken word Surah Maryam (featuring Waleed Aly).
Along next are the harmonious vocalizations of Kate Miller-Heidke, Jess Hitchcock, Alice Keath and Marlon Williams brought forth within Coventry Carol and the rhythmic In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day, more jangling guitar work on the single How to Make Gravy, the rockingly raucous Christmas Train (featuring the forthright vocals of Vika Bull), the album rounding out on the quieter tale of Come Thou Font of Every Blessing and the acoustic guitar work of Intonent Hodie (featuring the ethereal vocals of Alice Keath), coming to a righteous close on some more acoustic guitar gossamer within What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (featuring the velvety vocals of Alma Zygier).
“I’ve always been interested in Christmas songs and the variety of them,” Kelly says. “There is a double-edged sword to Christmas music because every year it is everywhere, pumped to you in supermarkets and malls. There is a lot of schlock attached but on the other hand there are so many great Christmas songs and so much to explore.”
“I’ve chosen songs I love, which led me often to wander off the well-worn path, then chosen singers I thought best suited to them.”
The sacred and the secular, the ancient and modern, are all carefully woven into a collection destined to become a part of Christmases around the globe for many years to come.
It is delivered by Kelly and his band with a big cast of Christmas helpers including vocalists Vika and Linda Bull, Marlon Williams, Kasey Chambers and Emma Donovan, along with contributions from the Kelly clan: nephew and bandmate Dan, siblings Mary-Jo and Tony, and Paul’s daughters Maddy and Memphis.
Christmas was a big part of Kelly’s upbringing in a large Catholic family in Adelaide. “We had Advent, the month-long build-up to Christmas. There was a small crib in one of the fireplaces with a pile of straw beside it. Every time you did something good or denied yourself something you would secretly put straw in the crib so it would be filled by Christmas, when a statuette of the baby Jesus would miraculously appear in the crib.”
“The statues of the Three Wise Men started a long way off in another part of the house, secretly moving every night along mantelpieces so they would arrive at the crib for the Epiphany on January 6. That was all part of Christmas for us. It was fun and mysterious and had that magic about it.”
For the Kelly clan singing is always part of the season, especially on Gravy Day (December 21), “Sometimes we do it all together, sometimes the Queensland gang do it separately from the Melbourne gang, and we have the tradition of singing carols on Christmas Eve, not very reverentially.”
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