'Christmas Time' EP by Rob Halligan


'Christmas Time' EP by Rob Halligan

Review

Rob Halligan is another of our local musicians who could certainly be described as "prolific" in terms of just how much excellent music they are currently managing to create & release despite the constraints upon them. Less than a month after being able to share with you his long awaited album ‘Always Heading Home', here I find myself telling you about another multi track release, in this case a three track EP called simply ‘Christmas Time'.

Containing three songs:  the title track and a versions of "What Child Is This" & "O Come All Ye Faithful", the collection seems to pick up from where its predecessor left off with regards to how it must have been created: Rob plays most instruments & sings (as you might imagine) and is joined by his in-house backing vocal team of Jean & Nikita Halligan while Ewan Cameron provides whistles on the title track.

This back to basics recording approach (the tracks are credited as being recorded "in the Sewing Room") over the past few weeks (the finished recordings were mastered by Chris Hunt) no doubt was driven by a certain amount of necessity, as with a lot of other artists under the present conditions, but Rob, like others, has made a set of virtues out of this.

When you are this good a musician, the quality of self recorded material really does not dip in comparison with what it might otherwise have been: external sessions might have produced different approaches to playing brought by other artists, but those remain speculative in the face of what we are hearing now. I dare say the process probably tends to simplify arrangements, preventing certain specialised parts and overdubs, but I'd argue that any potential loss in that direction is more than compensated with an enhancement of honesty in the final version: and that plays I believe strongly with musicians such as Rob.

"Christmas Time" is probably the stand out track & it works very well on a number of levels. A sort of Celtic folk rocker (with echoes of Big Country to my ears), it is another of Rob's recent "state of play" songs, looking squarely & unflinchingly back at 2020, yet also celebrating family, friendship & support & looking forwards as much as back. The theme of travel also fits in very nicely with what he wrote so much about on ‘Always Heading Home' and maybe if the latter is to be re-released in the future this would make a good bonus track. It's also very catchy & stands considerably taller than many of the deluge of Christmas related songs I imagine will start flooding radio schedules very soon.

"What Child Is This" is a much gentler & acoustic offering, being a sensitive, beautiful reading of the popular Victorian carol which shares a melody with "Greensleeves". I can't say I fully understand how artists (especially those who generally write original material) begin to contemplate covering traditional songs when there are so many potential alternative versions for theirs to be measured against by those who like to do such things.  In Rob's case, he simply goes for what he himself presumably sees in the songs in question & so we get heartfelt renditions where commitment to the words is as manifest as is joy in singing the tune: in this case something rather personal & profound, in the case of "O Come All Ye Faithful" a rousing exhortation to the listener.

This EP is certainly one of the highest quality new Christmas releases for 2020 which you'll be hearing.

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