1 SOL INVICTUS
A very special track, on which I was thrilled to collaborate with the award winning Sense Of Sound Choir from Liverpool, freshly back from their contribution to Damon Albarn's opera "Monkey". The vocal arrangement here is by the choir's leader Jennifer John.
Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was a Roman state-supported sun god created by the emperor in 274 and hugely important until the abolition of paganism.
The Romans held a festival on December 25 of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, "the birthday of the unconquered sun."
December 25 was the date after the winter solstice, with the first detectable lengthening of daylight hours. So this is a song about the point where the darkest point of the year recedes and the sun, or the light, wins.
2 THEA GILMORE'S MIDWINTER TOAST
Written after a conversation with Janice Long, and first performed Christmas 2004. It's my personal take on Christmas and the feelings of home, material but also spiritual, that the season evokes in me.
3 COLD COMING
Inspired by the first line of T S Eliot's poem "Journey Of The Magi", this song takes in 3 differing takes and times of the Christmas season…the religious, the secular and the confused.
4 THAT'LL BE CHRISTMAS
This is pretty much my take on a 21st century Christmas, a just about healthy balance of joy and skepticism. No-one has really had a decent stab at the 'Christmas pop song' for a while, and Nigel Stonier producer and occasional co-writer) and I thought it was time someone did. The shiny poppy chords are his, and the slide solo (played by Duncan Hamilton of the band Katy Lied) is an unashamed nod to George Harrison. Tinseltastic!!
5 LISTEN THE SNOW IS FALLING
A Yoko Ono song. A couple of years ago my good mate Mike Scott told me to listen to this as it was a neglected Christmas classic, and that it would suit my voice. So I did. And he was right I guess!
6 DRUNKEN ANGEL
It always strikes me as interesting how life gets more and more complicated as you get older. One thing that Christmas does to pretty much everyone is make them reflect on more childish times. This song arrived from a twisted girl trying to make sense of life in a childish season.. giving thanks, asking questions.
7 THE ST STEPHENS DAY MURDERS
Nigel heard Elvis Costello sing this at a festival fifteen years ago, and then spent years searching for it vainly on album... only to find that Elvis had only recorded it on a Chieftains record, having co-written it with Paddy Moloney.
We finally tracked it down, I loved it... and immediately wanted to co-opt Mark Radcliffe to sing it with me. I knew the black humour in the song would suit Mark to a t, and I've made the odd guest appearance at his Christmas Family Mahone shows being Kirsty to his Shane, so luckily for me he said yes.
Then after we'd done our duet and gone off to quaff wine Fluff and Nigel were only too happy to explore their respective Celts within and dig out the banjos and whistles to lift it into the stratosphere.
8 DECEMBER IN NEW YORK
I wrote this song 9 years ago, before i’d ever visited NYC, after a conversation with someone telling me that it was a magical place at Christmas.
I’d always felt that New York was my kind of town and I loved the ideas that flowed out through this song. But it never made it to an album, for reasons I can barely even remember... so finally, 9 years later, and after numerous visits to the magificent metropolis, December In New York has found a home.
9 BOOK OF CHRISTMAS/ AUTUMN JOURNAL
The Irish poet Louis Macniece wrote an extraordinary epic poem "Autumn Journal" in 1938. He managed to set some painful personal changes he was going through against the backdrop of a strife-torn world on the brink of catastrophe, and create a sort of diary in verse which is by turns troubling, moving and funny and beautiful. This short piece about Christmas in a Western world starting to edge nervously away from orthodox Christianity have always struck me as absolutely perfect.
10 OLD DECEMBER
This was my final thought.. to celebrate hope, community, love and not be ashamed of it. We make so much effort in our lives to play it safe build walls, keep quiet. For one month at the end of the year we can connect and not feel embarrassed. This is my call to all corners.