The Gothard Sisters – Falling Snow
The latest release from The Gothard Sisters, Falling Snow, is a ten song music collection centered on a Christmas theme that, thankfully, avoids the sweet sentimentality of the season in favor of a much more musically minded approach. There is a great deal of feeling and emotion in each of these ten performances, some of them instrumentals, but the predominant aim seems to be to touch listeners not so much with familiar invocations of holiday spirit through the lyrics but, instead, to move listeners with the thoughtful and tasteful beauty of their musical abilities. Despite how deliberate and careful these performances sound, they flow naturally from the group and leave the listener feeling lighter than before. Since their 2006 debut, the group has released five superb albums flush with traditional music and songs and their talents continue to blossom with each new release.
Their inventiveness is on display throughout the release, but few tracks illustrate their imaginative capabilities moreso than the opener “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. The song, like many of the other tracks on Falling Snow, has an extensive history reaching back over a hundred years, but rather than following the path of least resistance and aping the benchmark versions from the song’s history, The Gothard Sisters nod to its extensive pedigree while bringing something of themselves to the performance. “Winter Wonderland” looks back to a time much closer to today, the early thirties, and this sturdy holiday classic receives an emotive and almost classical treatment from the group. Their sensitivity with this track never risks cliché and infuse it with the warmth that it richly deserves. “Good King Wenceslas” is, by far, the oldest track on the album with roots that reach back into the 1500’s and may not be familiar to all listeners, but The Gothard Sisters do a superb job of rendering the semi-obscure into something comfortable for their audience with their combination of musical skill and the accessibility of their presentation.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is another venerable song that the sisters take on without a hint of intimidation in their performance. It is exceedingly difficult, after innumerable iterations, to wrong something crackling and new from such standards and it’s a measure of the group’s talent that they take this song and stamp it with individual distinction. “Still, Still, Still” dates back to the 19th century but, once again, it has a modern touch that renders the intervening years a moot point and brings listeners fully into its holiday experience. They return to familiar territory for the final two tracks. The first, “Skater’s Waltz”, is a song many fans of holiday music will recognize by melody alone and the classical treatment it receives here is wholly credible thanks to the skill set for that sort of music that The Gothard Sisters routinely display. “Joy to the World”, inarguably the most well-known song on this album, doesn’t sound nearly as ornate and contrived in the hands of this group as it often does on such albums. Instead, they refrain from too much stateliness and concentrate on filling the performance with energy and light. Falling Snow has the same delicacy implied by the title and takes its audience through a cavalcade of good feeling while still providing a substantive musical experience.
9 out of 10 stars