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Beautiful Darkness, Celebrating the Winter Solstice

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Album Review

Released in 2000, Beautiful Darkness was one of the loveliest and most unusual holiday albums to come along in some time. It was a rare release, in that the people who made it — Jessica Radcliffe, Lisa Ekström, and Martin Simpson — seem to have made the album for artistic reasons, not commercial ones. The album also stood out because the participants offered an intelligent, deeply felt meditation on the Solstice — as opposed to the Christmas — celebration. One shouldn't approach Beautiful Darkness like a Bing Crosby record, filled with spirited songs and happy lyrics. Instead, the album is all of a musical piece, relying heavily on mood to portray the undercurrent of the long winter nights. The instrumental work is as spare as the leaf-less winter woods, with guitar, bells, cello, and accordion creating a deep, subtle atmosphere. Radcliffe handles most of the spoken-sung parts, and her fragile voice adds a touch of haunted ambience to the music. If one gains the impression that Beautiful Darkness' heavy mood is a contemplation on death, it's only a fitting subject for the Solstice season. For anyone prone to sitting before the fireplace in mediation during chilly evenings, Beautiful Darkness is a desirable companion. For those who are sick to death of the same old holiday offerings, Radcliffe, Ekström, and Simpson offer a refreshing change. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Beautiful Darkness, Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Jessica Radcliffe
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