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A Winter’s Eve: Acoustic Music for the Winter Season
Various Artists
Compass Records
12 tracks/48:48
Compass Records has assembled a disc utilizing the talents of a number of artists on the company’s roster of talent. Comprised of arrangements of traditional songs and original works from the Allison Brown Quartet, Pierce Pettis, Andrea Zonn, NewGrange and John R. Burr, the collection creates a musical winter wonderland for the discerning listener.
Brown’s group starts the disc off with “Carol of the Kings,” an instrumental with Andrea Zonn joining in on the fiddle. This variation on the themes from several traditional hymns has Brown’s fine banjo work playing off pianist Burr’s accompaniment, which brings a jazz element to the piece. Zonn’s fiddle adds the high lonesome bluegrass sound. It’s a strong performance. The group also closes the disc (minus Zonn) with the soothing instrumental “The Promise of Spring.”
Brown is also featured on “Poe’s Pickin’ Party,” which features a bluegrass all-star line-up with Sam Bush and Mike Marshall on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Tony Rice on guitar and Todd Phillips on bass. Everyone gets a chance to shine on this sprightly jig that was composed by Brown. Her banjo is an integral part of NewGrange, a group pushing the boundaries of bluegrass music. They do a reverent version of “Greensleeves,” with Tim O’Brien singing one verse of the traditional lyrics. The band’s other piece is a instrumental that captures the joy and excitement of “Christmas Eve.”
Andrea Zonn contributes two songs - “Red Light Dawning,” which appeared on her first solo recording, and  “While  Roving an a Winter’s Night” which has a fine vocal by Zonn and more outstanding piano from Burr. On a disc filled with critically acknowledged musicians, John Burr really caught my attention with his keyboard contributions. His piano playing enhances every song he appears on. He does a duet with Zonn’s fiddle on “Christmas Lullaby,” a performance of quiet majesty. Burr gets the only solo piece and quickly demonstrates he is up to the challenge, creating an elegant ode to “Snow at Waterloo.”
Pierce Pettis contributes three original songs that feature his singing.  “Miriam” and “Absalom, Absalom” put a contemporary voice to Biblical tales while “Rise From the Ruins” has a gospel flavor that reminds me of some of Lyle Lovett’s work.
If you are looking for a disc that evokes the spirit of the holiday season with out relying on the standard Christmas material, you owe it to yourself to give this collection a listen. It is full of finely crafted  performances that would be the perfect soundtrack for a evening curled up in front of the fireplace with your loved ones. 
Mark Thompson 11/22/2003
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