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Keith Christmas Keith Christmas
Album: Life Life
Label: BECN
Tracks: 12

Despite his career in music going back to the late 60s, Keith Christmas is a new discovery for me. Somehow, through a series of links leading to links on YouTube, I came across a simple home video of him performing the opening track to this new album... and I was hooked!

Because this album is a very rare thing. Songs that all reflect on the past but never wallow in it; acknowledge the reality of pain and trouble but always offer hope and love as a relief; meditate on innermost thoughts but always look outwards to others in the world.

"Round The Stones" is a great way to start the album. It acts like an overture, introducing themes and ideas that will recur and resonate throughout the rest of the collection.

After that evocation of late-60s optimism and sense of togetherness, we get a rollicking life-affirming tune with a knockout chorus in the title track "Life,life". Then a gorgeous guitar introduction leads into a touching and very personal love song, "Love in the Gold", before we get another rousing up-tempo anthem as a celebration of life and love in all its craziness and magic in "Wonderful Ride".

Things slow down and get darker for "A Gun In His Hand" which deals with the irreparable damage done to those that go off to fight wars - and to their families.

There's a musical change then, as Keith introduces slide to his guitar technique for a more bluesy sound in the next couple of tracks. "Travelling Blues" follows the life of a touring musician; "Trouble, trouble" is a foot-tapping, light-hearted sounding - but seriously meant - wagging finger at pride and vanity.

"Who's Going to Save You?" and The Love That Surrounds You" return to the theme of redemption through recognising and accepting the love of others. "Ruled By The Tide" is a reflection on the artist's childhood and on seeing things differently as experience of life grows and "Born of God" tells the story of the signing of Magna Carta... but has plenty to say about the state of Britain today...

Finally, the album closes with a beautiful, reflective and perceptive meditation on the drive and motivation of the lonely singer-songwriter, continuing against the odds to try to create and offer something of beauty to the world.

Keith Christmas has a sit-up-and-listen voice that has got a lovely life-given gruffness to it. It is instantly recognisable but also capable of great emotional range and sensitivity. He is also an exceptional guitarist with a technique that has echoes of folk and blues styles from the folk revival days, but is also very distinctive and unique. The guitar is recorded beautifully throughout this album with a crystal-clear ringing tone that fills the tracks leaving absolutely no need for any other instrumentation. His lyric writing is inventive and continually unexpected and surprising.

This is a spirit-lifting album, performed with passion and absolute commitment, that confronts profound and serious themes with optimism, humour and hope. There is introspection without naval-gazing, and reflection and commentary without any cynicism or world-weariness. Beautiful.

Greg Hancock