This was originally posted on Celtic Music Magazine.
When The Rogues’ Hellbound Sleigh came up for review I jumped at it – even though I’m generally a stickler for not listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. This, I thought would be a fun addition my Christmas music collection. I figured it would be weirdly irreverent with the title. I was surprised.
Apart from the title track, Hellbound Sleigh is mostly a lovely and lively collection of familiar Christmas and Holiday songs – some stand alone, others as part of medleys. Most are instrumental with pipes and bagpipes, violins and drums – along with other instruments that do give these time-honored classics unique elements. For the traditional Celts, and because there aren’t that many New Year’s songs, The Rogues appeal to all with “Ros’ Hogmanay”.
I have friends who are bellydancers. I can totally see this album as the base of a holiday-themed dance routine for them. There’s a tribal sense to the instrumentals that make you want to move to the rhythm. That’s not so hard to imagine since there are tracks like “March, Pat-a-Pan and Reel” and “Christmas Eve Reel/The Maple Leaf/Joy to the World” medley.
There are amazing – and different – combinations of songs on this album, too. I wouldn’t ever have considered melding “Jingle Bells” with “Good King Wenceslas”, but this works. It really works. To the point that I’m really looking forward to having this in my Christmas playlist just for the fact that it’s different and very intricate and cool. My church has a symphonic violin player – I’m very tempted to make him listen to “O Holy Night/Ave Maria” because it’s beautifully performed and haunting at the same time. The skill and musicianship is intricate and skilled.
If you’re like me and buy a new Christmas album each year, this is the one to get this year.