Album Review: Christmas Gift - Various

Rainboot's Christmas Gift is a compilation truly in the spirit of the times... A set of fourteen understated, folky, Christmas influenced tracks where all of the takings go straight to a good cause - Save The Children.

For any label to do such a thing takes balls. For it to be a boutique such as Rain Boot is really rather generous (and brave) - they came to BlackPlastic's attention earlier this year when they put out the Whiskey Priest's superb Wave and Cloud. And that surprisingly blunt yet beautiful record is a good demonstration of what to expect.

This truly is the anti-X Factor. Whilst many in the UK alternative scene get behind John Cage's (rather excellent) '4:33' for Christmas number one most of the tracks on this album would make a much more fitting replacement. These are warts-and-all Christmas songs - the second act blues of A Charlie Brown Christmas, prior to the realisation of the true meaning of Christmas. It is the aural equivalent of turning your back on Argos, pulling your collar up and walking off into the cold, present-less, because all that really matters is who you spend it with (not what you spend it on).

There are certainly stronger and weaker moments here. Tyler Butler is battered and bruised on 'Waxwing' whilst The Animal Beat feel cautiously optimistic on 'Love Again'. Unsurprisingly, given the quality of Wave and Cloud, The Whiskey Priest delivers the gut-wrenching 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear' and this contrasts with the beautifully coquettish 'Waiting To Find Me', from Sara Lewis. Where things stray into full on ballad territory is where BlackPlastic struggles a little - Travis Tucker's 'O Holy Night' is an epic Christmas song, it just feels a little over-delivered in contrast to the rest of the album.

Overall though you can't fault the package, and you certainly can't fault the sentiment. With all of the cover price going to a good cause we whole heartedly recommend you check out Christmas Gift.

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Christmas Gift is out now on Rainboot, visit the Rainboot site for details on where to buy (including a pay what you want option at Bandcamp).

MP3: If a Train Was a Doctor Was a Song - The Whiskey Priest

A couple of weeks ago BlackPlastic reviewed the Whiskey Priest's new album Wave and Cloud, taking time to specifically highlight how bloody lovely the tune 'If a Train Was a Doctor Was a Song' is.

Well good news for you - the label Rainboot have offered the song up as a free download on Soundcloud.  You won't even need to part with any data.  BlackPlastic can't over-emphasise how good this is so take the opportunity to have a listen and then go and buy the album.

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Album review: Wave and Cloud - The Whiskey Priest

As The Whiskey Priest, musician Seth Woods (along with friend Alex "Hooch" Dupree) has managed to make something truly beautiful here. For BlackPlastic, opener 'A Seafarer's Lament' totally captures the feeling of the void that fills the room when the person you love leaves it. It is the sound of a man at the mercy of his feelings - a statement that the way you feel about someone is beyond your control. You would do as well to try and change the seasons or the passing of night and day as you would choose to stop loving someone.

So from the start Wave and Cloud has a level of raw emotional impact that it is simply not possible to ignore. If 'A Seafarer's Lament' is a powerful start to an album then second track 'If a Train Was a Doctor Was a Song' is a small miracle - it manages to calm down the fire in the belly and yet still sports a heart so big on its sleeve the it must almost be physically weighing down Woods down. With an opening line like "If I was a train I would carry you along" it is pretty clear that Wave and Cloud is a gift in the form of music - it feels like Woods would be prepared to give the shirt off his back and more to the subject of his music.

But this isn't an album of passive, yet gutsy ballads - witness the defiant country stomp of 'No Man is an Island (But Me)', where The Whiskey Priest may be left wanting but certainly ain't going to buckle to demands. It's a lovely poke in the eye to the wistful romance the pervades other parts of the album. Similarly 'All The Way Back' feels like a triumphant bar room singalong and you can't help but wish you were somewhere with sawdust on the floor, bourbon in hand and a stage too small for the band's sounds so you could join in.

There has been a bit of a renaissance in recent years in honest country and folk based sing-songwriter music. Some of it is good and some of it bad and some of it just slept-on. Wave and Cloud may well end up being that latter, but one thing is for sure - it certainly wouldn't fit in the second category. This is the kind of honest, and unfussy music that is just to frank and beautiful to not love. If 2008 belonged to Bon Iver, then The Whiskey Priest deserves 2010.

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Wave and Cloud is out on Rainboot today, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD [affiliate link].