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Christmas Eve Is Here

Dirty Linen, The Magazine of Folk and World Music, November/December 2009

It's been five years since Robin Bullock released his solo holiday CD, A Guitar for Christmas, and his latest release, Christmas Eve is Here, expands on that presentation. Most of the previous CD was solo guitar, and on this release only a few tracks are solo guitar; the rest are multi-tracked with various guitars, mandolins and citterns.

Bullock is not only a masterfully skilled player, he has a magnificent musicality, unique and instinctive sense of note placement, and both a vigor and restraint that concentrates all attention on the music itself. Those carols that are very familiar, including such staples as "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Silent Night," are traditional enough to be counted on as old friends, but are given a musical break here, a bent string there, and other tweakings that make the listener sit up and listen with fresh ears.

"Fresh" is also the appropriate word for Bullock's addition of two classical pieces that fit seamlessly: "Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light" from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and "In dir ist Freude," a 16th century melody by Giovanni Gastoldi that inspired artists as diverse as J.S. Bach and Englishman Thomas Morley to use it as the basis for some of their own most memorable works.

The liner notes provide details on the songs, the instrumentation, and insight into Bullock's choices and quiet, dry humor. In his notes for "O Holy Night," Bullock says as though surprised himself, "My arrangement appears to show some influence of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar tradition. These things happen." Six of the sixteen tracks were previously released on various holiday samplers; the other ten are newly recorded. If true artistry is 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration, Bullock shows that he's got it just about right.

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