Kirsty Almeida & The Troubadours – Winter Songs (All Made Up Records)
Straying from the norm while performing Christmas classics, the quirky, but clearly talented Kirsty Almeida impresses our own Paul Scott-Bates no matter what time of the year it is.
Alright, so Xmas is SOOO last year, but letâs not be silly about a name. We donât only listen to love songs around February 14th do we? And, we donât only play reggae in the sun do we? There, thatâs the difficult bit over with â always a bit of a weirdo me.
If youâre from Manchester or the North West chances are youâve heard of Kirsty Almeida. Last year she was the subject of the Inside Out TV programme on local BBC TV. After releasing her first album on Decca, she became disillusioned and left to set up her own label and have full creative control. She performs intimate gigs to small audiences (often at âsecretâ locations) who arrive in splendid dress. Sheâs a dress maker, an interior designer, and sheâs even been known to hand craft her own record/CD sleeves. In fact, if you ordered Winter Songs prior to Xmas, she even gift wrapped it for you!
Winter Songs is a collection of covers and original wacky Almeida compositions. From the opening ‘Merry Christmas (Letâs Have Fun)’ this is a fun album and welcomes you to the kooky world of Kirsty â complete with bells, children singing, a tuba (?), and references to the madness of shopping. From there weâre straight into a cover of Mariah Careyâs awful ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ but this version is very palatable with its soulful acoustic guitar and lone voice. It actually sounds very good and knocks the spots off the version by the aforementioned American screacher.
Track three is a lovely warming version of Joni Mitchellâs ‘River’. Itâs a quite simply stunning cover. Kirstyâs voice is beautiful, and Joni should be very honoured to have such a tribute. Words canât really begin to describe the song â just listen to it. ‘January Man’, written by Ian Reynolds, has a simple, almost jazz cafe feel â acoustic guitars, hi-hats and cymbals, organ â and is so, so relaxing. Counting in with the ticks of a clock, ‘Tick Tock Tick’ says goodbye to the outgoing year and welcomes in the new. A little of the Almeida madness with a bizarre few seconds of silly trumpet and her own countdown to âHappy New Yearâ.
Abandonment is the subject of the superbly titled ‘Just Cancel Christmas’; left alone in the alleged season of goodwill, a tale of loneliness. âTell Santa to stay at the Pole, tie the reindeer up tonightâ – shoo-be-do-wap genius. Itâs always a delight to hear an artist put their own stamp on an old standard and ‘Winter Wonderland’ is just one of those. ‘Cold Lonely Blue’ is another selfâpenned track, and a great one at that. The arrangements on this album are just perfect â this particular track sending ice-cold shivers up your spine, and, an icy tear to your eye.
To end the album, thereâs a remix of one of Kirstyâs live favourites, ‘Shine All Your Light’. An uplifting track with lovely accompaniment and a quite eerie whispered voice behind the main vocals it is anything but a winter song and anything but ordinary. Then finally, we have ‘White Christmas’. Yes, unfortunately it is THAT song, represented here by a short and sweet rendition. If Iâm not mistaken Kirstyâs own voice played over in the background created a layered effect, complete with the odd bells and tambourines. What else?
If youâve never heard of Kirsty, or her very accomplished band, The Troubadours, then this is a good place to get acquainted. Forget that there are some Xmas songs on this album and enjoy a very underrated and very talented performer.
Words by Paul Scott-Bates. More writing by Paul on Louder Than War can be found here.