Beautiful Songs Under a Winter Moon

Winter Moon Album Cover

You probably haven’t heard of Mindy Gledhill.

And if you expect to hear her in the usual mix of stuff they play on the “Christmas Music Stations,” you just won’t. Her combination of melancholy, simply-sung and arranged songs, along with a uniquely stylized voice, just won’t fit in with stations that insist on playing Whitney Houston’s “Do You Hear What I Hear” at every given opportunity.

I discovered Mindy Gledhill while looking for new Christmas music last year and fell in love. Her voice, the sound, the instrumentation and arrangements, all work together to make Winter Moon one of my new favorite albums.  It’s full of original and classic songs, and it’s truly a quiet album.  The few “upbeat” songs are still kept in a quiet arrangement that keeps the album perfect for nights where it’s cold outside and you need a little music to keep you company.

Her voice would fit in the category of “twee” pop, in that it is sweet, youthful, and a bit like Leigh Nash.  But she’s not a commercial artist–and as a result, her lovingly sung and produced Christmas album, Winter Moon, just falls off the radar.

The title track, “Winter Moon,” is almost Victorian in its lyrical format (reminding me of songs like “By the light of the silvery moon,” from a bye gone era), and charms with its combination of banjo, simple percussion, and harmonies that combine into a loving celebration of young love.  There’s also a version with “puppet friends,” which may explain why I love this album so much.

More familiar songs make an appearance, including the classics “Toyland” and “White Christmas,” as well as sacred carols like “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  All of the songs are arranged in the simple, almost toy-like style.  It reminded me a lot of the score Yann Tiersen composed for the film Amelie in that it uses instruments you may not always think of to help create an aural picture of innocence and magic.

Even her take on the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” keeps that playful quietness intact, which makes a song that can get annoying pretty quickly not overstay its welcome.  The arrangement of “Patapan/O Come, O Come Emmanuel” takes the normally somber “Emmanuel” and mixes it with the traditionally “Celtic” feeling “Patapan” to give both songs a new sound.

The most beautiful song on the album is “Little Soldier,” which is a heartbreaking memory of how quickly time flies.  Watching my own children age each year as Christmas passes, I’m reminded just how fast it goes–the little baby who celebrated her first Christmas just yesterday is now 13.  As the song says, “Father Time comes creeping in. We fight back, but he will win.  If I asked one Christmas wish than it would be: ‘Soldier, could you win back time for me?'”  Gledhill’s vocal delivery is both sweet and sad, and the song is a gentle celebration of the joy and sadness this season brings.

You won’t hear Winter Moon on the radio, but it is easily one my top 10 Christmas albums of the past few years.  Beautiful, celebratory, and a little sad.  It’s a nearly perfect Christmas album in every way.  And best of all, you can buy it at Amazon.

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