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Album Review: A Midnight Clear
Bill Leslie
Cover image of the album A Midnight Clear by Bill Leslie
A Midnight Clear
Bill Leslie
2011 / Capitol Broadcasting Company
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
A Midnight Clear - Christmas In Mitford was inspired by Jan Karon’s best-selling series of Mitford books. Bill Leslie received a collection of these books from his sister as a gift several years ago, and the setting, a mythical mountain town, reminded Bill of his childhood home in western North Carolina. Over time, Bill Leslie, a television journalist in Raleigh, NC, and Jan Karon became great friends, with Karon featuring Leslie’s music on her website and designing the cover for this CD as well as choosing the title. The selection of sixteen tracks includes traditional Christmas music as well as original pieces that incorporate elements of the Mitford books. This is Leslie’s sixth release and features an impressive group of supporting musicians that includes Bill Covington on piano, Brent Cotton on guitars, Jennifer Curtis on violin, and Bill’s son Will on percussion. Bill, whom cellist Yo-Yo Ma referred to as “one of the greats in modern Celtic music,” performs on acoustic guitar, Celtic whistles, lead vocals, piano, and keyboards in addition to composing seven of the pieces and arranging the others. Receiving a new CD by Bill Leslie for review always brings a smile to my face, and this one is no exception. Warm, tender, and heartfelt, this album will bring Christmas joy for many seasons to come!

All of the tracks on A Midnight Clear are exceptional, but I’ll mention some of my favorites. It begins with a gorgeous medley of “Coventry Carol” and “What Child Is This” that features piano, Celtic whistle, oboe, violin, and cello. These are two of my favorite Christmas songs, and Leslie’s arrangement is perfect. “Angels We Have Heard On High” is performed on harp, Celtic whistle, and strings - upbeat and joyful. “Mitford Carol” is the first of the original pieces. The acoustic ensemble creates a mood of gentle magic, painting a serene portrait of this mythical town. “A Midnight Clear” is performed on hammered dulcimer by Dan Gilvary and Leslie on whistle and guitar - gorgeous! “December Dance” begins with a quiet guitar/mandolin prelude that becomes a lively Celtic dance. “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is another ancient carol, this time dating back to the 4th century. Dark and haunting, this arrangement is exquisite. I also really love “The Holly and the Ivy” and “I Wonder As I Wander.” “Love Is Born” has a cinematic feeling about it with string washes and a subtle melody that suggests wonder and awe. “Uncle Billy Watson” brings us back to earth with an instrumental folk song that celebrates life. “Winter Rose” closes the album with a magical vocal duet with Bill Leslie and Marty Long.

A Midnight Clear - Christmas in Mitford is a wonderful addition to any Christmas music collection! It is available from billleslie.com, Amazon and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
November 6, 2011
This review has been tagged as:
Guitar musicHoliday Albums