Part two of NMC’s Christmas countdown.
First up is The Northern Belle from Norway, with ‘Silver Bows & Bells’, which, as is often the case, features Norway’s indie-folk/Nordicana luminaries Louien and Signe Marie Rustad. It is described as “a classic Christmas ballad, complete with beautiful harmonies and The Northern Belle’s secret weapon, the Hardanger fiddle”, which indeed does sound like a weapon.
To be honest it’s a little dispiriting. Within the first few lines we learn that “I’ve been dreading this Christmas”, “it’s the loneliest time of the year” and “you left too early, you’re with God, now” to the background of a funeral parlour organ.
What she wants for Christmas isn’t her two front teeth, to paraphrase Alvin and the Chipmunks, but “you”, as impossible as that is. And it seems she’s prepared to sacrifice herself to be with him,
“So wrap me in this silk and close my eyes for good/I’ll give you my last breath and my body too”.
Just for a moment I wondered if it had some religious significance, birth and death of Christ and so on, but dismissed that idea.
The general tone doesn’t get any lighter I’m afraid, although the song is well presented in a classic Americana style and will be well received in the deep South, I’m sure.
For the rest of us it’s perhaps just a little too depressing for a Christmas song, like Terry Jacks’ ‘Seasons in the Sun’ wrapped in tinsel.
The forthcoming studio album from The Northern Belle, ‘Bats in the Attic’ releases on DWYBO Records on March 8th, 2024.
Find them on:
‘Pilgrims’ by Denmark’s Northern Assembly and Kajsa Vala gets much more into the Christmas Spirit. Northern Assembly have been releasing a Christmas carol every year since 2017 and this year found inspiration in the most popular Christmas song in Scandinavia, ‘Dejlig er jorden’ or ‘Lovely is the Earth’.
‘Pilgrims’ was arranged, played and sung in collaboration with guitarist Kajsa Vala (Zachariae). It gets its name because the song was not originally a Christmas carol at all, but a pilgrim hymn – a wandering song.
They say, “We have written a tribute to the journey that we are all on throughout life. To see life as a kind of pilgrimage is also to recognise the value of stopping, looking around and appreciating how beautiful the world we live in is and how much we really have to live for.”
(To be honest, the first time I read that I thought it said “the value of shopping”. That’s probably more in tune with the contemporary ‘Christmas spirit’ than anything!)
So musically Northern Assembly’s (not to be confused with Arctic Assembly, who were here last week) folk is allied to Kajsa Vala’s eminent guitar playing and Americana style. There is so much Americana coming out of Scandinavia just now. Has the US bought it? I recall Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland once.
It gets stuck straight into the beat and melody in the first few seconds and the harmonies of the two front women quickly join the party. You’ll soon be humming it, it’s danceable and the late bridge/outro is a real hoedown.
Find them on:
Northern Assembly: https://www.facebook.com/northernassembly
Northern Assembly: https://www.instagram.com/northernassembly/