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Passing through my third-life crisis peacefully in South London, finding out new stuff, and then getting cross and excited about it.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The 7 Greatest Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - #6

#6 - Sweet Bells by Kate Rusby

Number six on the Greatest Christmas Songs You’ve Never Heard is Sweet Bells, and it's a risky choice, since more people will have heard it than the others in the countdown. However, I have my reasons for including it, and they’re good enough for me.

First, this is taken from the album of the same name by The Barnsley Nightingale herself, the enchanting Kate Rusby.

Rusby was the original poster girl for the wave of folk singer songwriters who have broken through this decade, although she’s now a more mature presence in the company of whippersnappers such as Rachel and Becky Unthank, Laura Marling and Beth Rowley. It’s by no means Rusby’s best album, and she sorely misses the production from her earlier albums provided by ex-husband John McCusker – without him, the songs lack the variety and spark that complemented her voice so well. Check out her version of Our Town, and you'll see what I mean. But it’s still an unalloyed joy to hear her taking on various standard English Christmas tunes.

And that’s a second reason to include it – Sweet Bells is actually a variant of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, for which there are at least 7 different tunes. This is not the very Anglican dirge that you sung in school carol services - but a more animated tune with a chorus you’ll be humming well past Epiphany. I think it’s from West Yorkshire, which is why Rusby chose it, but I could be wrong.

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