Sharron Kraus

Right Wantonly A-Mumming: A Collection Of Seasonal Songs And Celebrations

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Sharron Kraus was no stranger to holiday albums by the time of Right Wantonly A-Mumming's release, given her Yuletide collaboration with the Iditarod, but rather than being another album in that vein, this effort had a year-round cycle as its theme, with lyric and instrumental pieces in general alternation covering the course of the four seasons. It's an inspired turn on expectations as well as suggesting similarly seasonal efforts like Coil's Mothers Milk, while the focus throughout is less on Kraus herself as it a collective effort by Kraus and numerous other performers and singers, a number of whom take the lead role on certain songs. Beginning with the gentle invocation to approaching spring "Wake Up, Sleepers," strong singing calling out crisply over subtle squeezebox, the whole album feels like it could be a recording of an ensemble presentation on-stage somewhere -- a pageant in a medieval sense, perhaps. There's a feeling of quickening energy as the sequence moves into the spring and summer pieces like "May Song," then drawing again to a calmer close with "To Shorten Winter's Sadness," though the very title shows the gentle, all-gathered-together sentiment at the heart of the song hoping for good hours -- and drinks! -- with friends on long nights. When others take the lead vocals, the variety helps give the sense of a communal rather than individual effort, as well illustrated by the sturdy singing of Ian Giles on "Welcome Joyful Spring" and the duet on the sprightly summer song "The Hawthorn Tree" between Ian Woods and Fay Hield. Instrumentation throughout on the main songs is generally understated, but touches like sudden bells in "May Song" and the steady drumbeat and fiddle on "Midsummer" are lovely. Meanwhile, "Wedding Song," originally written as just that for a friend of Kraus', is a slow-burn treat, singing on the chorus moving from one voice to many throughout. The shorter instrumental and lyrical pieces function as perfect interstitial moments, from the flute and birdsong invocation of spring "Dargason" to the soft flute and drumming on "Barleycorn."

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