FolkWorld #81 11/2023
© G Promo PR

Across the Western Ocean

To Be Frank, I’d Rather Be Merry

Mean Mary, acclaimed banjo-wielding force of nature, announces December 1 release of first ever Christmas/holiday album, 'I'd Rather Be Merry.'

Mean Mary

Mean Mary "I'd Rather be Merry", Woodrock Records, 2023

Mean Mary’s first-ever Christmas album, I’d Rather Be Merry, is a jolly mixture of original and traditional holiday tunes. The 12-song album includes 3 brand-new, original songs, plus her previously released 2008 holiday original ‘Ding Dong Day’.

I’d Rather Be Merry was a surprise project squeezed in-between last year’s release, Portrait of a Woman, Part 1, and her upcoming album, Woman Creature: Portrait of a Woman, Part 2 (now scheduled for release in July 2024). Mary’s goal was to make a fun, laid-back holiday album that featured the style of music she and her brother, Frank, played as kids.

“To be frank, I’d rather be merry” is the catchphrase from the title track of the album, a play on their names, and the main theme of the album. “Frank has always been the glass-half-empty person and I’ve always been the optimistic, happy one. I think everyone can relate to both personality types during the holidays. But I think most of us will agree, it’s better to be merry!” Mary says with a laugh.

This will be Mary’s 19th album, beginning with her first album (via cassette tape) at the age of seven. Despite her many recordings, she promises this to be her merriest thus far!

Mean Mary

Artist Video Mean Mary @ FROG

When Mary was four years old her family moved from sunny Florida to North Minnesota, near the Canadian border, to rough it in the wilds. They lived in a tent built from a roll of Visqueen, while they built a log cabin using only an axe, handsaws, and the trees around them. They cooked their food on a campfire, got their water from a deep hole they had dug, and read at night by the northern lights shining through the clear walls of their plastic tent.

Mary’s oldest brother, Jim, who had just joined the Navy, sent the family a guitar and a compilation tape of songs he liked. With a battery-powered tape player, the family listened to the music of Hank Williams, Jr., and Dolly Parton. It wasn’t long before Mary was singing the songs and vocalizing all the instrumentation. Seeing her talent, Mom and Dad bought guitar books, and Mom started teaching Mary and her siblings how to play the guitar. Mary and her brother Frank (the 2 youngest of 6) were the two who would turn music into a career.

Mary learned to read music before she could read words and was an official singer/songwriter before she had started her first day of kindergarten. With the help of her mom, she wrote her theme song ‘Mean Mary from Alabam’’ (Mary was officially born in Geneva, Alabama). The press immediately baptized her with this handle, and she has been Mean Mary ever since.

Today she produces music, produces videos (her YouTube videos have received over 33 million views), tours extensively in the US and overseas, co-writes books with her mom, Jean James (their mystery novel, Wherefore Art Thou, Jane, won first place in the Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards), and Mary is an endorsing artist for Deering Banjos. The Deering’s named her their Goodtime Ambassador, and Janet Deering describes her banjo playing as giving her “chills.” Equally versatile on guitar, fiddle, and 8 other instruments, Mary is known as a high-energy performer with lightning-fast fingers and an unmistakable vocal sound … and as a songwriter that thrives on variety and unusual subject matters.

There is not room here to tell the whole life story of Mean Mary, but if you would like to know more you can read her full bio on her website: or just listen to her music - it’s all there.

More Christmas Music ... Jingle All The Way

Merry Christmas baby. Yes, it's that time of year. Time to think about how to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving without running out of festive holiday spirit before Santa comes to town. What better way to accomplish that than with music that suits the occasion? Especially if it's music that's merry, bright, and freshly curated for the season by Blue Heart Records, offering its own version of a blue Christmas with its debut holiday album, a compilation by the artists at Blue Heart and Nola Blue Records.

Jingle All The Way

Artist Audio Artist Video "Jingle All The Way", Blue Heart Records, 2023

The Texas Horns tear open this sparkling package with a sharp set of horns and a cheerful vocal chorus, updating the traditionally more solemn “Silver Bells.” Benny Turner makes the soulful plea in the very bluesy “I Want Some Christmas Cheer,” as he struggles for a visit with the one he loves: “Gotta see my baby, she's in Chicago....” The holiday chestnut “Santa Baby” gets a sultry update from Lil Red & the Rooster, and the equally classic “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” romps with a New Orleans vibe by Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps. Rick Vito launches a rocking guitar driven “I Was A Bad Boy This Year,” since “all that rockin' put a hole in his stockin'.”

Tiffany Pollack

Artist Video Tiffany Pollack @ FROG

Jim Koeppel offers whimsical advice in “Slim Down Santa,” suggesting he “lose a little wait or you'll need another reindeer Christmas night” and hinting at what a naughty Mrs. Claus has in mind. Clarence Spady offers funkified spirit for the season in “Christmas.” Bobby Gentilo struts his way through James Brown's “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” and Croatian bluesman Tomislav Goluban creates a dazzling harplaced instrumental version of “Amazing Grace.” Mark Cameron turns in a clever spoken word “Nick's Place,” with a distinctive view of all the hard work at “a place they call the pole...”

No bluesy holiday album should be without a version of the Johnny Moore classic “Merry Christmas Baby,” and Laura Tate doesn't disappoint, with a rousing, sax-spiced R&B version. Vaneese Thomas follows with her own fullthroated plea for “Peace and Goodwill.” Peter Veteska and solo piano backing offer the wistful and poignant “I'll Be Home For Christmas.” Tiffany Pollack, with the help of Johanson, revives the lyrically and melodically gorgeous “River,” in a delightful reading of the too-seldom heard Joni Mitchell song. The closer finds Teresa James backed by the Texas Horns in a gently swinging, socially conscious, “Even Santa Gets the Blues,” where “Hard times are everywhere you go, even Santa's got the blues....”

So, since Santa knows if you've been bad or good, it's better to be good and listen to this special collection of holiday music. That's the best way to have a merry Christmas, baby.

Big Harp George Does Christmas

Big Harp George doesn't know if you've been naughty or nice – but he's got a special Christmas gift ready for you either way. It's an album of unconventional Christmas music that reflects his unconventional songwriting mind. It's music that's lyrically sharp and clever, with lots of Big (chromatic) Harp, but still very Christmassy – in an irreverent Big Harp George kind of way. It makes you think that if Mad Magazine ever released a Christmas album, this would be it.

Big Harp George

Artist Video

Big Harp George (George Bisharat) is a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer, songwriter, and chromatic harmonica wizard. The chromatic has a jazzy, sophisticated voice, and combined with Bisharat's smart songwriting, makes for a distinctive musical package. It was music that captured Bisharat's imagination in his early teens, but he set that aside for a successful career as a criminal defense lawyer, an award-winning professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law, and expert commentator on law and politics in the Middle East.

But the music was hard to resist, and about 12 years ago, Bisharat tuned in again. He recorded his first album, “Chromaticism,” in 2014, which earned him "Best New Artist" award nominations from the Blues Foundation and Blues Blast Magazine, as well as high praise from music critics for his blues-laced chromatic style. Four more successful albums followed, with his most recent being Cut My Spirit Loose.

But now it's time for Christmas giving. Bisharat has been writing and recording holiday songs occasionally since 2018, when he cut “Where'll I Be for Christmas?” with the late “Little Charlie” Baty on guitar. He's added a few more here and there to round out this holiday album, Big Harp George Does Christmas, of what he calls “decidedly nonstandard tunes.”

Big Harp George

"Big Harp George Does Christmas", Blues Mountain Records, 2023

The hard rocking “nonstandard” opener is “Bad Santa,” in which naughty triumphs over nice, and this salacious Santa's gifts are best left undelivered: “Bad Santa, you ain't welcome in my home....” “Carioca Christmas” has a Latin vibe, with a strong chromatic solo. “Reindeer On Strike” jingles in with “this reindeer standin' up for what's right...” and notes “little scab elves” on its way to listing reindeer grievances that speak impishly of their plight. “War on Christmas!” attacks that politically delicate topic armed with explosively sarcastic ammunition.

“Snow Shuffle” is bluesy instrumental that could easily drift into a Christmas dance tune. “Coquito Girl” is another Latinesque number flavored with a “rum and coconut” yuletide libation. “Where I'll Be For Christmas?” features Baty with a spirited guitar solo on a gently swinging, bluesy track around the lament that “my family's turned its back on me, and I don't have no place to go....” “Fireside Waltz” is exactly that, an instrumental perfect for an old-fashioned dance on any occasion. “Thee Three Kings” wisely forgoes that traditional theme and focuses instead on Freddie, Albert and B.B. as the three blues kings in a tribute to those masters, with guitar lines that evoke their eternal presence. In a spoken final verse, George takes a serious minute to wish everyone a “most joyous holiday season.”

“That Grinch is Me” offers a slow and easy blues with a contrarian lyrical counterpoint: “You see pretty presents wrapped in ribbons and bows, I see recycling and the landfill where it goes….” The closer, “It's New Year's Eve,” is a swinging finale with a heady harp solo that speaks optimistically of what might be coming next, even though “the world is in an uproar.” Big Harp George has indeed unwrapped a collection of “decidedly nonstandard” songs for this delightful holiday album. The tunes are filled with sharp-edged lyrical delights and decorated with solid musical trimmings. And George's harp works a special chromatic Christmas magic. His goal, Bisharat says, “was to make good music that people would be tempted to listen to all year round.” Wouldn't that make every day Christmas?

George Bisharat aka Big Harp George is a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer, songwriter, and chromatic harmonica player. The chromatic, compared to the 10-hole diatonic more common to blues, has a distinctive voice, giving Big Harp George a jazzy and sophisticated sound. George’s 2023 release, Cut My Spirit Loose, recorded with his core set of blues all-stars, showcased his growing musical ambition. The songs drew on a wide range of blues and jazz styles while addressing contemporary life through stunning lyrics and irreverent wit. On the strength of this album, George has been nominated by Blues Blast Magazine as Harmonica Player of the Year.

Sofia Talvik: Alone for Christmas

Sofia Talvik

Center of the Universe

Artist VideoSofia Talvik @ FROG

Every year, Swedish Folk/Americana artist Sofia Talvik releases a new Christmas single, always on the theme of the darker side of Christmas. This year, it's about being involuntary alone on the holidays.

Listen to Alone for Christmas @ Spotify or Bandcamp.

Sofia Talvik

Artist Audio Sofia Talvik "Alone for Christmas", Makaki Music, 2023

For over 10 years Sofia has made it her tradition to write and release a free Christmas single every year. When she had enough songs, she re-imagined, re-recorded, re-mixed and re-mastered these songs to make them come together as an album. When Winter Comes is so unique, not just because 13 of the 14 songs are originals but because the songs focus on the darker side of Christmas, something you don't hear that often in Christmas music.

If Christmas music is not your thing, make sure to listen to "When Winter Comes" and "Clothe Yourself For The Winter", both songs for the season without any mention of Christmas.

Sofia's new album Center of the Universe was released in August 2023 to Critical acclaim, charted Folk Radio in the U.S in top 20 with singles in top 10, and was considered for a Grammy Nomination for best Folk Album.

Talvik has released 9 full length albums and countless singles and eps. She has performed at festivals ranging from Lollapalooza to SXSW. She has opened for Maria McKee and David Duchovny, and has collaborated with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, as well as Tobias Fröberg (Peter Bjorn and John), who produced her 2008 LP Jonestown. She has also released 2 albums in Swedish as part of the New Acoustic duo Hansan with German cellist David Floer.

Primarily a live artist, Talvik has taken her music across Europe and through 48 U.S. states, riding in her 1989 Winnebago Warrior with her husband and sound technician Jonas at the wheel, digging deep into the American sound and channeling it through her Nordic roots to create a singular brand of Americana. Talvik releases all of her music on Makaki Music, a record label she started early in her career to maintain full control over her own recordings. While her Swedish roots serve as the basis for her songwriting, she often calls upon her many journeys and experiences for inspiration, especially the uniquely American archetype of roaming the endless highway.

Seamus Egan: When I was Twelve

Seamus Egan

Artist Video Seamus Egan @ FROG

It's the one year anniversary of the release of Good Winter and to mark the occasion I'm releasing a Limited Vinyl Edition and new bonus single. I'm really proud of how the album turned out and so happy to have its sounds in the analog format. Just 200 copies available, so you'll want to act fast!

Seamus Egan

Artist Audio Seamus Egan "When I was Twelve", THL Records, 2023

As we move into this holiday season and prepare for the shift into winter, (for those of us in the northern hemisphere, at least) we often rely upon rituals to see us through the transition. I came to appreciate the observance of these rituals through my friendship and work with Brian O’Donovan. He would often speak of the “always” in our lives, those observances that would become our rituals providing a foundation to help us navigate this seasonal transformation. Brian’s passing this year has ended an “always” for many of us. For his family, for the legions of listeners that tuned into his weekly radio program, for the many fans of Celtic music that attended the myriad festivals and concerts he produced. For me, my “always” for the past 15 years, was being a part of Brian’s Christmas Celtic Sojourn family. Journeying to Boston every December and getting to rehearse and perform with incredible musicians, singers, and dancers that Brian had gathered together. It signaled the end of another year and what a joyful ending it was.

Over the years, Brian established many “always’ within the show. One in particular, a favorite of mine, was his childhood recollections of growing up in Ireland around the holidays. It was made up family stories, of stories about the characters that populated the town of Clonakilty in West Cork where he grew up. Stories of gatherings where music and song established the traditions, the “always’, that Brian would eventually carry with him to his new home in America. He would write a new story for each year of the show but it always began with an excerpt from Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales in which Thomas questions his memory of a particular winter storm. He can no longer remember clearly whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when he was six or whether it snowed for six days and six nights when he was twelve. I’ve always loved this. The particulars of a memory can fade as the years go by but the feelings created by those memories can remain with us forever. My memory of Brian reciting these words as he began yet another of his own childhood Christmas stories may well grow dim as the years go by but the way it made me feel will not. This is the inspiration behind my new tune, 'When I was Twelve'. It’s for Brian and for all the “always” he inspired.

Seamus Egan... It’s hard to think of an artist in traditional Irish music more influential than Seamus Egan. From his beginnings as a teen prodigy, to his groundbreaking solo work with Shanachie Records, to his founding of Irish-American powerhouse band Solas, to his current work as one of the leading composers and interpreters of the tradition, Egan has inspired multiple generations of musicians and helped define the sound of Irish music today. In 2018, Seamus Egan began touring as a solo performer, bringing along friends and musical guests, and making music as Seamus Egan Project.

Don McLean: Christmas Memories

Don McLean

Artist Video Don McLean @ FROG

Grammy-award honoree, Songwriters Hall of Fame member, and BBC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Don McLean has released his latest Christmas album, Christmas Memories: Remixed & Remastered today. Full of Christmas classics and all-time favorite holiday standards, McLean offers a unique spin like never before. The album, which boasts twelve tracks, was released and distributed by BFD/Orchard with McLean’s versions of “Blue Christmas,” “Let It Snow,” “Silent Night,” “The Burgundeon Carol,” “White Christmas,” and more! Autographed copies of Christmas Memories: Remixed & Remastered are available on vinyl and CD at

Don McLean

Don McLean "Christmas Memories (Remixed & Remastered)", BFD, 2023

“The holidays are a time for families to come together,” shares McLean. “I remember as a kid sitting around the record player and listening to music with my family. We all had our favorites, which we played over and over again. All the greats from Bing Crosby to Gene Autry influenced me, so I have included my version of their classics on ‘Christmas Memories: Remixed & Remastered,’ which I hope you enjoy.”

Don McLean continues to bring his 50th Anniversary Tour to a city near you! In 2022, McLean celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic songs in history “American Pie,” and now in 2023, off that same album 50 years ago came “Vincent” (Starry, Starry Night). McLean is set to entertain fans from coast-to-coast proving that “bye-bye, Miss American Pie” will forever remain a classic staple in music.

Don McLean along with three-time GRAMMY Award-winner Darius Rucker; rock and roll guitarist Duane Eddy; and former record-label executive Joe Galante, was recently inducted by the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp into the Music City Walk of Fame. They were the 101st, 102nd, 103rd, and 104th stars on the Music City Walk of Fame and they were recognized for their significant work of preserving the musical heritage of Nashville and for contributing to the world through song. McLean was inducted by Connie Valens, the sister of the late Ritchie Valens whose death was immortalized in “American Pie.”

November 13, legendary singer-songwriter Don McLean released a remastered version of his iconic song "Jerusalem." This timeless track is now available for streaming and download on various platforms, with all proceeds generously earmarked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (@JDC) during these challenging times. McLean shared his personal connection to the song "Jerusalem": "I believe in the power of Jerusalem. There is an unknown force of some kind which I personally experienced in that region. This caused me to write the song ‘Jerusalem’ many years ago. I really hope that hearing this will bring some tiny bit of peace to this region."

The McDades: A Winter Collection

The McDades

Artist Video The McDades @ FROG

Free Radio Records and The McDades are thrilled to present 'A Winter Collection,' a captivating thirteen-track album that weaves a magical tapestry of holiday and winter-themed melodies. This musical journey is a testament to the group's creativity, mastery and reverence for the Christmas tradition.

The McDades, renowned for their patented sound, present a tapestry of inventive arrangements that breathe new life into timeless carols such as "O Holy Night," "What Child is This," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Additionally, the album features modern classics like Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas" and Pete Seeger's "Snow Snow." It also introduces the band's original anthem to peace, joy, and hope, "Dreaming On A Yuletide Night."

The McDades

Artist Audio The McDades "A Winter Collection", Own label, 2023

'A Winter Collection' remains firmly rooted in the band's acoustic Americana heritage while masterfully incorporating a kaleidoscope of international influences. The result is a breathtaking reinterpretation of the holiday soundscape, brimming with a melange of cultures and flavors. Be prepared to embark on a sonic journey across the globe with tracks like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Little Drummer Boy," and "Guillo, Pran Ton Tamborin."

This enchanting album, 'A Winter Collection,' is certain to infuse your soul with warmth, optimism, and unbridled joy. Each note and lyric will wrap you in a cocoon of festivity, evoking the spirit of the season in its purest form. Immerse yourself in the magic of 'A Winter Collection' by The McDades, as it takes you on a musical voyage through the snow-covered landscapes of your heart. This cherished release promises to become a cherished part of your holiday tradition, a musical treasure to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Punching through the walls of tradition, The McDades’ Celtic-rooted music fuses the spontaneity of jazz improvisation and infectious global rhythms. The Juno Award winners’ cutting edge sound is the perfect complement to their fiery performances. At the heart of the group are siblings Shannon, Solon & Jeremiah who grew up playing Canadian folk music alongside their parents and among artists from around the world; a unique upbringing that led to a love and respect for all music. Their ground-breaking compositions and innovative arrangements are characterized by stunning virtuosity and a near-telepathic interaction on stage.

With vocal harmonies that can only come from a family, and an obvious love for each other and their music, The McDades’ sound is immersed in the spirit of improvisation. Combining original tunes and unique interpretations of traditional songs, their performances feature both energetic instrumentals and moving vocals performed in English and French. This compelling and dynamic group “finds their groove somewhere between a down-home kitchen party, a jazzy after hours club, and a folk festival.” (London Free Press) The McDades are winners of the Juno Award for Best Roots Album (group) and two Canadian folk music awards (World Group of the year and Instrumental album of the year). Their new album “The Empress” continues to highlight the group’s one-of-a-kind sound and irresistible groove.

Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden: Glad Christmas Comes

Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden

Artist Video Carthy & Boden @ FROG

Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden join forces to release their first duo album and launch their first UK duo tour, Glad Christmas Comes is a collection of some of their favourite traditional and modern festive songs. The album will be toured throughout the UK in November and December 2023.

Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden

Artist Audio Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden "Glad Christmas Comes", Hudson Records, 2023

Glad Christmas Comes was recorded in Sheffield earlier this year, it features songs with Waterson:Carthy luminaries Emily Portman (The Furrow Collective) & Tim van Eyken (War Horse), Morris dancing from Ewan Wardrop, Brass from Yorkshire’s own Backstage Brass and was produced by long-time collaborator Andy Bell. The album features traditional Sheffield carols Mount Zion and The Holly & The Ivy from Jon’s local pub ‘The Royal’ in Dungworth, Winter Grace, suggested to Eliza & Jon by Eliza’s Mum Norma whilst they rehearsed in the living room, a version of the Stanley Brothers’ Beautiful Star, a folky version of the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York featuring Morris dancing and a Christmas Hippopotamus even gets a look in.

‘Christmas in the Carthy and Boden households is a serious business. Comfort is sacrificed to ramming them chock-full of as much greenery / bling / tat as is humanly possible. Often our respective children are forced to camp outside for the duration so that their bedrooms can be given over to mechanical nodding reindeer, life size inflatable Santas and industrial mince pie production facilities. Official carol-singing season chez Carthy and chez Boden is, of course, Sep 1st to Feb 1st and within that timeframe any other material is frowned upon. There are some who believe that the full weight of the human need to mark the passing of the seasons with a series of regular customs throughout the year, has been overly focused in modern times upon the single folk custom of Christmas to the great detriment of the broader customary calendar and leading to the cultural overburdening of the Christmas ritual. To this we say…. baubles. Bring it on. The more Christmas the better. In fact having launched (due to Covid rescheduling) our Christmas show in July at the Union Chapel Islington, we strongly urge the adoption of a second “hot” Christmas so that all artificial constraints can be removed and life can at last become one long Yuletide bonanza. With this in mind we decided that we should try to translate our Christmas obsessions to disc form. We hope it may bring you much seasonal joy and festival merriment.’

Eliza Carthy is one of the most recognisable faces in British folk. She has received an MBE; numerous BBC R2 Folk Awards; two Mercury Prize nominations; was the first English traditional musician to be nominated for a BBC R3 Award for World Music, and in 2021 became President of the English Folk Dance & Song Society. Born into a formidable musical dynasty, her mother Norma was one of The Watersons and her father Martin Carthy is a hugely influential singer and guitarist, the incredible range of traditional and contemporary musicians who were part of the extended Waterson/Carthy world helped her develop her own unique approach to music.

Jon Boden has become a stand out performer of his generation of traditional folk artists, but one whose repertoire extends far beyond the boundaries of the genre. Most recognisably he is the lead singer (and one of the principal arrangers) of the multi-award winning Bellowhead one of the most exciting live acts of recent years. Since 2009 he has also performed with his own band The Remnant Kings, performing both traditional folk music and Jon’s own work featured across a trio of post-oil concept albums.

Christine Kydd Joins Forces with Maggie’s Choir for Charity Release

Christine Kydd

Artist Video Christine Kydd @ FROG

Stalwart of the Scottish folk scene and celebrated vocalist Christine Kydd is unveiling a set of touching winter releases in aid of the cancer support charity Maggie’s. Staying On and Wishin on a Winter Star will both be released on Thursday 7 December and feature Just Sing choir, based at Maggie’s Dundee.

The self-penned songs are Christine’s first new material in four years, during which time the beloved singer has lived with, and survived, head and neck cancer. Christine has undergone extensive treatment in recent years and received unwavering and invaluable support from Maggie’s along the way. Now in recovery, the singer was determined to give back to the charity, raise awareness and work with the amazing Maggie’s Centre singers.

Christine Kydd

Artist Audio Christine Kydd "Staying On / Wishin on a Winter Star", 2023

Staying On was inspired by a project Christine attended at Maggie’s called ‘Where, Now?’. Moved by the people she met and the experiences of cancer she shared and heard, Christine sat down to write a song full of gratitude. Christine’s spell-binding vocals are at the core of this captivating track. She lovingly weaves a story of determination and appreciation, which slowly builds before welcoming a rousing chorus of voices, creating a heartwarming musical moment.

Christine wrote the hopeful Wishin on a Winter Star to a traditional French tune. An ode to finding peace, the gentle track with its bright piano accompaniment, has a sparkly, festive feel to it which is sure to inspire a moment of contemplation in its listeners.

A trio of exceptional trad talent also features on the tracks in the form of Gaelic vocalist and songwriter Rachel Walker, musician, composer and producer Angus Lyon and fiddle player Gavin Marwick. Fellow cancer survivors Rachel and Gavin donated their time to the project. Folk singer songwriter Andy Shanks also lends his vocals on Staying On.

Christine Kydd said: “I was really keen to release some new music in aid of Maggie’s Dundee and I was delighted when they asked if the Just Sing choir could be involved. The project is not only about my recovery and wanting to give something back, but about doing something uplifting with the singers, all of whom, including staff from NHS Tayside and the University of Dundee School of Medicine, are impacted by cancer in various ways. ​​It’s been a great way to say thank you to my dentist Jane, the maxillofacial department at Ninewells, the Dundee Dental Hospital, and all the staff, family, friends and others who have helped along the way. I would also like to remind folks of the importance of dentists to us all in detecting cancers. In my case, I am lucky they caught it in time”.

“Recording and releasing the material been a joyful process and even though I’m still in recovery, it has been so meaningful being back doing what I love and a new and fun experience for the choir members. I’m a cancer survivor but I think the sentiment of Staying On speaks to all of us – the song is about being grateful for just being alive and celebrating the fact we are all here and trying to make the best of the great gift of life. Wishin on a Winter Star is a song of real hope that I think is perfect for this time of year. I hope it brings others a sense of promise for the future, all while raising money for a wonderful cause.”

A veteran of the folk world, Christine grew up musically in the vibrant Edinburgh scene and her varied music career has taken her to stages and venues around the world. Her many accolades include two Scots Singer of the Year nominations and an induction into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Regarded as an artist of empathy, range and passion, Christine’s love of both traditional and contemporary song shines through all that she does as a singer, choir director, voice coach, teacher and folklorist. Christine is set to tour the UK with Fiona Ross in April and May 2024.

St Agnes Fountain Christmas Tour 2023

St Agnes Fountain

Artist Video St Agnes Fountain @ FROG

Seasons Greetings (well nearly) to you all!!

David Hughes

Now that bonfire night is done with, we really are on the build up to our Christmas tour, just three weeks until our opening night in York on the first of December and every night until the 22nd. Aggie Aggie Aggie! There are already a number of sell outs and many more that are close to capacity, so if you haven’t got your tickets, please do so soon to avoid disappointment.

This year’s set list is now written and it’s chock-o-block full of Aggie classics that should get you well and truly in the festive spirit. We want to see your Christmas jumpers, your flashing stars and wands, your lovely smiley faces and hear your best Carol singing voices! Our aim with this selection of songs is not only to get your feet tapping but also to move you, bring a melancholy tear to your eye, to make you laugh and lift your spirits and then at the end of it all you can take home some stocking fillers from our extensive Aggie tour shop!

We’re delighted to say that we have had repressings of our last album ‘Night of a Million Stars’ as well as the ever popular double album ‘Best of St Agnes Fountain’, along with our back catalogue of Aggie albums and solo/duo albums there’s lots of music for everyone. Adding to this will be Chris’s beautiful bags and creations and Julie’s children’s books and cards (new Christmas card packs added this year).

Having lost our dear friend and founder, David Hughes this year we will be including a tribute that is befitting the character and genius he brought to the band for two decades. We’re sure he’d be very proud and laugh a lot at it, we hope you will too.

Robb Johnson

Artist Video Robb Johnson @ FROG

Robb Johnson: Murder at the Grange

Robb Johnson

Artist Audio "Murder At The Grange"

Christmas morning.  A dead man in a locked bedroom
in a house full of secrets. Everybody has a motive.
But who’s got the key?

We are delighted to announce the digital release on Monday November 20th of “The Best Christmas Present Of All” single, backed with an acoustic version of “A Mystery To Me”. The full album “Murder At The Grange” will be released in vinyl & digital versions on December 1st.

Murder At The Grange is a Christmas murder mystery in spoken word & song, created by acclaimed songwriter Robb Johnson & performed by Robb & The Xmas Irregulars. Presented in the style of a BBC radio drama, there’s a narrator, cast members reading as various characters in the narrative, appropriately absurd sound effects – & added original festive songs that comment on the action & reference traditional seasonal conventions (Father Christmas, mistletoe, sprouts etc).

This year’s cast is Sian Allen – trumpet, vocals; John Forrester – double bass, vocals; Robb Johnson – vocals, guitar; Fae Simon – vocals; Roger Stevens – narrator. Full details of the live performances in December 2023 can be found on the Murder At The Grange facebook page.

Frankie Armstrong

Artist Video Frankie Armstrong @ FROG

P.S.: Winter Benefit Fund Raiser for Al Tafawk Children's Centre in Jenin, Palestine

Help us raise some much needed funds for the Al Tafawk Children's Centre in Jenin, Palestine!


    Frankie Armstrong
    Robb Johnson
    Reem Kelani
    Mike & Reina Reinstein

Available from December 23rd 2023 on YouTube - a private YouTube link will be sent to ticket holders donating a minimum of £12. The YouTube link will be valid for you to enjoy at your leisure. All proceeds will go to Al Tafawk Children's Centre.

Thank you for your much needed support to this cause. Robb x

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Baby Jesus Lying in the Rubble: The Lutheran church in Bethlehem recently put out their variation of this year's nativity scene -- baby Jesus swaddled in a kaffiyeh, lying amid the rubble of a building in Gaza (YouTube).

Shane MacGowan (* 25. Dezember 1957; † 30. November 2023)

At the graveside of Cúchulainn we'll kneel around and pray
And God is in his Heaven and Billy's down by the bay

Photo Credits: (1) Mean Mary, (2) Tiffany Pollack, (3) Big Harp George, (4) Sofia Talvik, (5) Seamus Egan, (6) Don McLean, (7) The McDades, (8) Jon Boden & Eliza Carthy, (9) Christine Kydd, (10) St Agnes Fountain, (11) David Hughes, (12) Robb Johnson (unknown/website).

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