A sincere and well-meant Christmas gift from one of the purest folk voices we have
Chris Long 2008
Was there ever a more appropriate voice for Christmas than Kate Rusby's? Soft as fresh fallen snow, pretty as a sparkling star and uplifting as a robin's song, as suited as it is to other seasons, her timbre naturally breathes with the magic of Yuletide.
It's something she proved back in 2002 when she provided the delicious Little Jack Frost for a BBC Christmas cartoon, so it's no surprise that half a decade on, Sweet Bells underlines the fact brilliantly.
The album couldn't be more aptly titled. It shines with sweet innocence and chimes with season's greetings, collecting up a selection of Christmas folk songs from around her beloved South Yorkshire and delivering them with all the happiness and love that Kate can muster.
Such things could become a little saccharine, but the honesty with which she embraces the tunes means she mostly avoids such bumps.
As a result, Here We Come A-Wassailing gleams with all the splendour of a new year, Candlemas Eve burns with a bittersweet edge, and Awake Arise Good Christians is suitably stirring, thanks in no small part to the joyful brass of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
Of course, there are weaker moments - the odd versions of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks that sit inside both the title track and Hail Chime On or the downbeat take on The Holly And The Ivy for example – but it would be a hard heart that found offence in them.
Instead, the album should be taken as it was so obviously intended – as a sincere and well-meant Christmas gift from one of the purest folk voices we have.