Favorite Icon, Full size
Album Review: Christmas in Carolina
Bill Leslie
Cover image of the album Christmas in Carolina by Bill Leslie
Christmas in Carolina
Bill Leslie
2005 / Capitol Broadcasting Co.
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas in Carolina is a gorgeous collection of eight original and six traditional songs of the season by Bill Leslie. Named as “one of the greats in modern Celtic music” by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Leslie clearly demonstrates why he earned such high praise from one of the greatest musicians on the planet. Mixing inspired vocals and sparkling instrumental tracks, Leslie has created a true Christmas classic. A television news anchor in North Carolina, one would expect Leslie to have an impressive speaking voice, but his singing voice is also clear, expressive, and full of emotion. Along with vocals and guitar, Bill Leslie plays Celtic whistles, bass, and keyboards. His back-up instrumentation is all acoustic and consists of violins, guitar, piano, hammered dulcimer, flute, cello, and percussion. The music is a wonderful combination of American folk and Celtic traditions. Some of the instrumentals have a cinematic sweep, while other pieces are more intimate. The album itself is a delight from start to finish.

The title track was inspired by Bill Leslie’s childhood music teacher. The ensemble of musicians gives this piece a “big” feeling that would be perfect with a film of rural America, underscoring a sense of innocence and freedom. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a traditional piece that has has become very popular over the past few years. It reminds Leslie of his father’s watercolor paintings and fascination with the bare tree branches of winter, and this arrangement overflows with warm nostalgia. “Road to Bethlehem” is a haunting song about the search for the holy child and the “manger of the soul.” The beautiful lyrics, simple melody, and Leslie’s voice and guitar convey a message of hope. A new favorite Christmas song! “Away In a Manger” is extraordinary on hammered dulcimer (Dan Gilvary) with simple backup on flute, violin, and guitar. “Waiting For William” is a touching remembrance of the anticipation of the birth of Leslie’s son, an event that happened just after Christmas in 1988. Guitar and Celtic whistles create a bittersweet tone, and then Jennifer Curtis adds her violin for a lively and joyful finish. “The First Noel” is an elegant and passionate duet for piano and flute - just gorgeous! “Swannanoa Snow” is an enchanting recollection of childhood winters in North Carolina. Guitar, flute, and cello paint a graceful portrait in sparkling white. “Cradle of Hope” wordlessly tells the story of the holy birth. The instrumentation is simple, conveying the message of hope and wonder. Bill Covington’s solo piano arrangement of “Silent Night” is gentle, soft-spoken, and very evocative. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” is a spiritual that Leslie has performed in church every Christmas Eve for many years. Accompanied only by his guitar, Leslie sends the haunting words and melody right to the heart.

Christmas in Carolina is a breath of fresh air and can be purchased at billleslie.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
October 6, 2008
This review has been tagged as:
Guitar musicHoliday Albums
More reviews of Bill Leslie albums