Maddy has long been an important figure in the British folk music scene, whether as lead singer of Steeleye Span, as a solo singer or (as on this album) with The carnival band, who specialise in medieval and other traditional music.
This collection of Christmas music is not a typical Christmas album - it draws heavily on old and largely forgotten songs. The range of instruments used is as unusual as the songs - they even include recorders. I thought recorders were just use to teach children to learn to play an instrument - but here they are.
First the familiar - there are three songs here which will be instantly recognisable to everybody - Away in a manger, Joy to the world and I saw three ships. While shepherds watched is a standard in Britain. The melody is different to the one I'm familiar with but I read somewhere that there are many different arrangements of this song. I'm not sure about it's status in America - it rarely appears on American Christmas albums (though it does occasionally). You might also recognise the instrumental Old Joe Clark.
Of the other songs, See amid the winter's snow occasionally appears on a conventional Christmas album (Julie Andrews recorded a lovely version in 1982) but I can't remember hearing any of the other songs on such albums.
The songs all appear to have been written between the 16th and 19th centuries and it may be that some were more famous then than now. However, they are all immensely enjoyable and it's great to be reminded of times long ago.
This is an album that took me a while to get used to, precisely because it is SO different, but it's been well worth it.