For a rootsy, grown-up spin on Christmas music, Skydiggers’ Angels satisfies.
Last year, the long-running Toronto band released an EP version of Angels, and this year’s expanded edition adds five lesser-known, quieter and more melancholy carols to the offering. Their version of The Holly And The Ivy is slow and warm, coaxed along gently by acoustic guitar, piano and fiddle. Hidden track I See A Darkness – by Will Oldham, featuring former Skydigger (and current Cash Brother) Peter Cash – is moody and spare.
On all the songs, Andy Maize has a fragile but welcoming voice behind which Jessy Bell Smith frequently adds strong, swooping harmonies. She takes the lead on oddly optimistic Christmas In Prison. The French poem version of O Holy Night, Minuit Chrétiens, is a nice touch, but one of the standouts is the achingly regretful original tune Remember Me, which more than holds its own against the classics.
Top track: The Holly And The Ivy
Skydiggers play the Horseshoe’s Christmas shows Friday and Saturday (December 19 and 20). More info here.