There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
One listen too many to Handel’s “Messiah” can leave a person on edge. That’s why there’s Windham Hill. Celtic Christmas, a soothing, 13-track collection that features just about everybody who’s anybody on the contemporary Celtic music scene, includes traditional carols as well as newly composed songs that take the holiday season as their theme. Though they’re in the minority, the disc’s best tracks are those that are more folkish than new-agey. On “Galician Carol,” an exuberant jig, Carlos Núñez is joined by the Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney on Uilleann pipes; Kevin Burke and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill’s “On a Cold Winter’s Day/Christmas Eve,” is a morose but lovely duet for fiddle and guitar; and Liam O’Flynn’s mournful Uilleann pipes belie the optimism of “The Winter’s End”’s title. The current crop of Celtic new agers are also well-represented here, but there is one consolation: If contributions from Nightnoise (“Snow on High Ground”), Loreena McKennitt (“Snow”), and Altan (“Soillse Na Nollag”) fail to inspire, they can always double as relaxation tapes. Perhaps because traditional instruments like the Uilleann pipes have such a melancholy sound, much of Celtic Christmas is moodier than you might expect from a holiday record; this is not, I repeat, not the compilation for those likely to find themselves alienated and depressed during the yuletide season.—Nicole Arthur