William Pint & Felicia Dale,
When I See Winter Return
(Waterbug, 1997)

Seattle songsters William Pint and Felicia Dale have compiled a cheery assortment of winter- and Christmas-themed songs on When I See Winter Return, the duo's fifth collaboration.

Pint plays guitar, octave mandolin and bodhran, and Dale adds hurdy-gurdy and whistles to the mix. Combined, they evoke an image of friends gathered near some blazing fireplace near solstice time, passing a pleasant hour away from the cold by singing a few warming seasonal songs.

The album draws its inspiration from Celtic Christmas celebrations in the Pacific Northwest, with tunes from European and early American traditions. Tracks include "The Woodcutter's Song," "The Trees Are All Bare," "The January Man" and "Over the Hill and Over the Dale."

Unfortunately, there's not much about the album that makes it stand out among the numerous seasonal recordings on the market. The pair's voices blend into warm harmonies throughout, but there isn't anything among the 11 tracks deserving even a half-hearted "ho ho ho." By album's end, I was more melancholy than inspired by holiday joy.

The usual lively "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" gets lackluster treatment by the two vocalists. "I Saw Three Ships" is played with a nice sea-shanty feel, but it still sounds filtered through a shopping mall or elevator sound system.

While When I See Winter Return shouldn't land high on anyone's list for Christmas giving, it would certainly make a nice, unobtrusive backdrop to a quiet holiday get-together for unspiked eggnog and a board game or two.

(Pint and Dale do get a thumbs-up for replacing the tired and, frankly, horrid popular tune of Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" with something a little more mellow and introspective. It's not the best melody I've heard supporting the Scottish Bard's most famous poem, but it beats anything you're likely to hear warbled at most New Year's Eve parties.)

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.