Krista Detor,
The Silver Wood: Wintersongs
(Tightrope, 2007)

In The Silver Wood, Krista Detor gives us a Christmas album that isn't trapped in the familiar, doesn't simply repeat the standard done-to-death carols and reassure us that this holiday season will be just like the others. No, Detor -- an adventurous musician -- offers us a group of songs, mostly self-composed, that celebrate the season but still offer something musically and lyrically. Her material is based on tradition but has a newness to it, a freshness that is attractive and unique.

While the material is solid and draws you into the album, the real treasure here is Detor's voice. It is husky, compelling, laced with a sense that she is interested in sharing with the listener the complexity as well as the beauty of her instrument. She never uses a song as a showcase for her voice, although she easily could. Instead, she lets her voice enhance the song.

She opens with a ballad, "Christmas in London," and just when you think that establishes the mood, goes into a jazzy, upbeat "Hot Buttered Rum," which tells us how te celebrate the holidays. With these songs, she signals that that the set is going to have range. "Awake the Voice" is based on the carol by Robert Herrick but is not in any way confined to 18th-century British styles and fashions. "The Water Round" is just that, a round, while "Sheriff Santa in Montana" is a kid's song. Add a ballad inspired by T.S. Eliot and a western swing song, and you've got a holiday album like no other.

Originality in roots music is hard to find. In a Christmas album, it's even harder. When we discover it, like we do in this album, we ought to cherish it.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 February 2009

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