The Gothard Sisters – Falling Snow
A traditional music minded three piece, The Gothard Sisters have established a reputation as one of the best interpreters of Celtic and folk music traditions working in music today. Though the youngest of the three, Solana, assumes the bulk of the lead vocal work on their releases, all of them are talented singers and their talents on a wide variety of common and far less common instruments means that they can conjure up a variety of musical voices seemingly at will. Their latest album Falling Snow primarily relies on covers of traditional Christmas classics, some modern and others relatively obscure. These are never paint by numbers renditions however. Instead, The Gothard Sisters bring something of their own personality to the material that distinguishes it from being merely overly familiar approximations of popular music standards.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is an excellent example of that. They take a highly intelligent approach to this particular song, arguably the best known of the ten cuts included on Falling Snow, by first invoking the feel and atmosphere that all listeners are familiar with. However, they deftly and wisely overturn the audience’s expectations with a much breezier second half that shows great flair. Their performance of “Winter Wonderland”, another longtime standard, proceeds along much more traditional lines, but The Gothard Sisters still acquit themselves extraordinarily well. Their musical talents mean that they have an easy facility for weaving even the most delicate of moods without ever lapsing into imitation – these are performances uniquely their own. “French Carol” is an instrumental that draws much more from acoustic guitar than the other songs on Falling Snow and results are quite pleasing and memorable.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is one of the undisputed musical highlights of the album thanks to the verve informing the group’s performance. It is no small feat for The Gothard Sisters to remake these eminently familiar songs into something new, yet time and again they succeed in doing so. “The Happy Elf”, originally written by Harry Connick Jr., is far more modern than the other covers on this album, but you couldn’t tell. The group manages to invest their performance with the same traditional flair that listeners find on the other nine songs. “Still, Still, Still” isn’t the oldest cover on Falling Snow, but it does go back quite a ways. The original version was first penned in the early second half of the 19th century, but it doesn’t sound dated at all with the group’s performance here. The album closes with a rousing performance of the eternal Christmas standard “Joy to the World” and the sisters deliver this classic with every ounce of the gusto and skill it deserves.
Falling Snow is more than just a Christmas album. It is a tribute to traditional music centered around a theme and The Gothard Sisters are far too creative to allow themselves to be frozen or intimidated by the long tradition behind many of these songs. Great classic music deserves reinvention, demands it, and The Gothard Sisters answer that demand artfully and beautifully.
9 out of 10 stars