More Things To Do in York and beyond with plenty of Bull and no bull. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 12 for 2024, from The Press, York

Bass player Kai West’s poster for Bull’s two-day album launch for Engines Of Honey at The Crescent

COMEDY legends and Arthurian tales, Welsh rock firebrands and a bullish album launch, an Italian dance champion and spa town illuminations have Charles Hutchinson reaching for his diary.

York album launch of the week: Bull at The Crescent, March 22 and 23, 7.30pm

BULL, York’s “finest purveyors of jangling indie joy”, launch second album Engines Of Honey with a brace of home-city shows, supported by FEET and Vehicle on Friday, then Fat Spatula and Eugene Gorgeous on Saturday.

Vocalist/songwriter Tom Beer, guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss, keyboard player Holly Beer and bassist Kai West promise entirely different sets for each night with no repeats. What’s more, they are making a day of it on the Saturday with a free daytime jamboree from 2pm, featuring an art fair, Ben Crosthwaite’s music quiz, bingo with Jade Blood, Bull’s homemade curry and a memoraBullia exhibition, plus post-gig DJs. Box office:

Rolling out a barrel of laughs: Al Murray at Grand Opera House, York

Comedy at the treble at Grand Opera House, York: Al Murray, Guv Island, Sunday, 7.30pm; An Evening With The Fast Show, Tuesday, 7.30pm; Frank Skinner, 30 Years Of Dirt, Thursday, 7.30pm.

STANDING up so you don’t have to take it lying it down anymore, Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, is back “to make sense of the questions you probably already had the answers to” in Guv Island.

An Evening With The Fast Show sold out suitably fast. Original cast members Simon Day, Charlie Higson, John Thomson, Paul Whitehouse, Mark Williams and Arabella Weir mark their 30th anniversary with behind-the-scenes insights into their television characters and catchphrases, recreating favourite moments too. Two nights later, Brummie comedian and TV and radio presenter Frank Skinner reflects on his own 30-year landmark. Box office:

Fast talking: An Evening With The Fast Show at Grand Opera House, York, on Tuesday

Please Please You presents: C Duncan, Rise at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

THE son of two classical musicians, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland-trained multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter C Duncan – ‘C’ stands for Christopher – plays solo at Rise.

The Glaswegian musician will be performing songs from his four albums: 2015’s Mercury Prize-nominated Architect, 2016’s The Midnight Sun, 2019’s Health and 2022’s Alluvium, recorded at his home studio at Helensburgh. He is an artist too, painting all the artwork for his Bella Union releases. Box office:

Feeder’s poster for their Black/Red tour, visiting York Barbican on Tuesday

Welsh invaders of the week: Feeder, supported by Girlband!, York Barbican, Tuesday, 8pm

ANTHEMIC Newport rock band Feeder mark their 30th anniversary with a spring tour and the April 5 release of a new studio double album, Black/Red, on Big Teeth Music.

Accruing seven million record sales, Grant Nicholas and Take Hirose’s group chalked up 20 Top 40 hits from 1997’s High to 2008’s We Are The People, and the likes of Just The Way I’m Feeling, Buck Rogers, Feeling A Moment, Tumble And Fall, Just A Day, Fear Of Flying and Lost And Found surely will feature in their set. Leeds Brudenell Social Club awaits on April 7 at 8pm. Box office: York,; Leeds,

Leigh Francis: Leeds comedian heads to York on My First Time tour

Yorkshire comedian of the week: Leigh Francis, My First Time, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm

LEEDS comedian, radio presenter and Bo’ Selecta! sketch show regular Leigh Francis is the scabrous, scatological, sometimes rubber-faced humorist behind the characters Keith Lemon, The Bear, Avid Merrion and Amanda Holden’s ‘gran’, Myrtle, along with celebrity impressions of David Dickinson, Ant and Dec and Louis Theroux.

All feature in Francis’s debut venture into the live environment in a tour show that combines sketches with buckets of audience interaction. “Come see me being other people live for the first time!” he says. Also playing Hull City Hall, March 22; Leeds Grand Theatre, April 6. Box office: York,; Hull,; Leeds,

Giovanni Pernice: Let him entertain you at York Barbican

Dance show of the week: Giovanni Pernice, Let Me Entertain You, York Barbican, Thursday 7.30pm

GIOVANNI Pernice, the Sicilian dancer from Strictly Come Dancing and BAFTA winner, returns to York Barbican on his 2024 tour, Let Me Entertain You.

Pernice, dancer, performer, showman and Guinness World Record holder for jive kicks and flick to boot, will be joined by fellow professional dancers and West End performers in a show of non-stop action. Box office: 

Le Navet Bete: History in the re-making in King Arthur at York Theatre Royal

Legend of the week: Le Navet Bete in King Arthur, York Theatre Royal, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

AFTER Treasure Island and Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Le Navet Bete head back to York Theatre Royal for a retelling of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur, in their inimitable comedic style. Camelot is in trouble, and Arthur knows that if he fails to turn things around, this civilisation will be forgotten and be known as nothing more than a rather dull time in British history.

When three hapless squires approach him about changing that legacy, however, a legend is born in a new comedy for the ages, suitable for the whole family. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Jamie Cullum: All that jazz at York Barbican in November. Picture: Charles Gall

York gig announcement of the week: Jamie Cullum, York Barbican, November 12

DID you know that Jamie Cullum failed his Grade 4 piano exam and can barely read music? Nevertheless, the Rochford-born pianist, now 44, became the biggest-selling British jazz musician of all time. This autumn he will play 14 British dates, visiting York as his only Yorkshire destination. Tickets will go on sale on March 22 at 10am at

In Focus: BEAM Light Festival, Harrogate, today, dusk (6.30pm) to 10pm

James Bawn’s light installation at the Cenotaph war memorial in Harrogate for the BEAM Light Festival. Picture: Charlotte Graham

COMMISSIONED by Harrogate International Festivals, Element 3 Design is illuminating Harrogate town centre with a light installation trail of spa-town locations, landmarks and green spaces, some iconic, others unexpected, ten in total.

Visitors and locals alike will see Harrogate in a completely different light in this new festival, as James Bawn follows up his 2019 light show by using lighting beams, projections and soundscapes to animate the likes of the Cenotaph and Crescent Gardens, while Valley Gardens trees will be lit with dancing twinkling lights. No need to book, just show up!

Supported by Future 50, North Yorkshire Council, Visit North Yorkshire and Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID), the Beam Light Festival festival is free: no need to book, just show up!

Business owners and the Harrogate community are encouraged to create their own lights for display in their windows to enhance the trail.

Beam follows on from such Harrogate large-scale outdoor events as the Fire Garden and the post-pandemicFire & Light Festival. Matthew Chapman, Harrogate BID manager, says: “Harrogate BID are thrilled to continue our close partnership with Harrogate International Festivals and Beam will be another fantastic occasion to celebrate this further.

“With anticipated increased footfall and spend for our members, a new and unique Harrogate experience delivering our objective of a ‘Vibrant Town’, we cannot wait to see Beam come to fruition and really put Harrogate on the map.”

Councillor Simon Myers, North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for culture, arts and housing, says: “Beam demonstrates the importance of free-to-attend events to animate our communities and ensure access to the arts for the widest possible audiences.

“Large events like this are an opportunity to celebrate the spaces which we live and work in and enjoy, and Beam is sure to present the town in a brand new light.”

Fiona Movley, chair of the Future 50 Appeal, says: “Harrogate International Festivals’ Future 50 Appeal was created to ensure the widest possible access to the arts for our community, and to develop artists of the future. We are excited to light up our town and shine a light on the creative talent we have in our region.”

The ten locations for the BEAM Light Fesival

1. Valley Gardens

WORKING with sound artist Dan Fox, the Elgar Walk within the Valley Gardens will be transformed with a Glittering Grove. Thousands of specks of light dance across trees and paths creating a sparkling path as you head towards the sculpture that will have a single light beam hitting the clouds above.

2. Crescent Gardens

USING searchlights to cast patterns across the sky, the lights and soundscape will create a magical spectacle. At the heart of the installation is the iconic Cupid and Psyche statue from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which brings the timeless tale of love and transformation to life.

3. Picture Frame/Montpellier Hill

SEE yourself in a different light as the Picture Frame is picked out in different colours to accentuate the design. Strike a pose!

4. Cenotaph & Field of Light

THE Cenotaph war memorial will be illuminated with narrow beams of light to make a solemn and dignified artwork paying tribute to the sacrifices of those who served.

A field of light created by solar jars will glow in the darkness. As the sun sets and the jars come to life, the area will be transformed into a magical sea of twinkling lights.

5. St Peter’s Church

SUBTLE lighting to highlight the beautiful architecture will provide a serene and contemplative atmosphere for visitors to reflect and find solace in this tranquil space among the illuminated surroundings.

6. Jubilee Memorial

SEE Queen Victoria bathed in colour to accentuate the architecture of this memorial commemorating the 1887 Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

7. Victoria Shopping Centre

A DYNAMIC lighting design, complemented by a carefully curated soundscape, will elevate the architecture of this building inspired by the work of Palladio in Italy 450 years ago.

8. The Exchange Building

THE central stairwell of The Exchange will be illuminated to be seen from miles around. Searchlights on the roof will cast beams of light into the night sky, further accentuating the impact the building has had on the townscape.

9. Library Gardens & Library

THE Library Gardens will be lit carefully, playing with light and shadow, whilst the Carnegie Library will tell stories through light projection on the front of the building.

10. Cedar Court Hotel

A COLOURFUL animated light will wash the building in colour, illuminating the beautiful architecture.

Lit up in words: James Bawn’s Harrogate 1571 sculpture, created in 2019 and now part of the BEAM festival. Picture: Celestine Dubruel

After 496 days of darkness, York Barbican to reopen with Van Morrison at the double

Freedom fighter Van Morrison marks liberation from Covid restrictions with full-capacity, sold-out gigs at York Barbican tomorrow night and on Wednesday.

YORK Barbican will reopen tomorrow when outspoken pandemic libertarian Van Morrison plays the first of two concerts this week, 496 days since the last show by jazz pianist Jamie Cullum.

Today’s Step 4 of lockdown easement facilitates the Northern Irish veteran performing Tuesday and Wednesday’s 8pm gigs to sold-out, full-capacity audiences.

The shows had to be moved from May 25 and 26 under prevailing Covid restrictions, when social distancing was still in place, and by happenstance the dates of July 20 and 21 were chosen, well before the “Freedom Day” delay from June 21 to July 19 was announced.

In May, Morrison, 75, released his 42nd studio album, Latest Record Project: Volume 1, a 28-track delve into his ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul, on Exile/BMG.

Born in Pottinger, Belfast, on August 31 1945, Van Morrison – or Sir George Ivan Morrison OBE, as a formal envelope would now read – was inspired early in life by his shipyard worker father’s collection of blues, country and gospel records.

Feeding off Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Muddy Waters in particular, Morrison became a travelling musician at 13, performing in several bands before forming Them in 1964.

Making their name at Belfast’s Maritime Club, Them soon established Morrison as a major force in the British R&B scene, initially with Here Comes The Night and Gloria, still his staple concert-closing number.

Brown Eyed Girl and the November 1968 album Astral Weeks announced a solo song-writing spirit still going strong, as affirmed latterly by a burst of five albums in three years. In 2017, he released Roll With The Punches and Versatile; in 2018, You’re Driving Me Crazy, with Joey DeFrancesco, and The Prophet Speaks; in 2019, Three Chords & The Truth.

Over the years, Morrison has accumulated a knighthood; a BRIT; an OBE; an Ivor Novello award; six Grammys; honorary doctorates from Queen’s University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster; entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the French Ordres Des Artes Et Des Lettres…and a number 20 hit duet with Cliff Richard in 1989, Whenever God Shines His Light.

Sceptic Morrison has said – and sung – his two penneth on Coronavirus, decrying what he calls the “crooked facts” and “pseudo-science”. Last August, he called for “fellow singers, musicians, writers, producers, promoters and others in the industry to fight with me on this. Come forward, stand up, fight the pseudo-science and speak up”.

Ironically, a quick-thinking company promptly launched a set of face masks of iconic Morrison album covers.

From September 25, Morrison launched a series of three protest songs, one every two weeks, railing against safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19: Born To Be Free, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown.

“No more lockdown / No more government overreach / No more fascist bullies / Disturbing our peace …,” he urged on the latter.

“No more taking of our freedom / And our God-given rights / Pretending it’s for our safety / When it’s really to enslave …”

Not without irony, that song condemned “celebrities telling us what we’re supposed to feel”. Issuing an explanatory statement amid condemnation from voices in Irish authority, he said: “I’m not telling people what to do or think. The government is doing a great job of that already. It’s about freedom of choice. I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.”

Last September too, he announced a series of socially distanced concerts, again with a covering note: “This is not a sign of compliance or acceptance of the current state of affairs,” it read. “This is to get my band up and running and out of the doldrums.”

Now, here come the nights at York Barbican: an umpteenth return to a venue where Van The Man has performed in his predictably unpredictable, sometimes gruff, sometimes prickly, yet oft-times sublimely soulful manner on myriad mystical nights.

Alas, CharlesHutchPress will not be reviewing York Barbican’s reopening night as no press tickets have been made available for Van Morrison’s brace of shows. 

Absolute turkey or totally gravy? 2020’s Christmas albums rated or roasted…

Holly Jolly Christmas, Dolly Parton style, in 2020

WHEN Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik sings “Drove a thousand miles/Just to see you smile” on his new star-guided long-journey-home instant anthem This Is Christmas, it jolts you. This isn’t Christmas, not this year, not in Covid-19-cancelled 2020.

Christmas songs usually irritate from over-familiarity; from supermarket rotation long before Remembrance Sunday; from schmaltz and excess beyond even Nigella’s recipe for twice-buttered toast. From the need for everything to come with reindeer bells on; from failing to match Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You or the Seventies’ peaks of Slade and Wizzard or the peerless booze battle of The Pogues’ Fairtytale Of New York.

This year, however, they annoy, they grate, they frustrate, because of their incongruity, their nostalgia for what we can’t have: sadness for a Lost Christmas rather than Last Christmas. The absence of friends, awkward office parties, Carol singing, Nativity Play shepherds in tea towels, busker singalongs. Too much on Zoom, not in the room, the dancefloor, the pub, the restaurant.

This was not the year surely, even with time on lockdown hands, to make a Christmas record that sounds like any other year’s Christmas records? Yet many have done exactly that, from Dolly Parton’s new happy holiday songs on A Holly Dolly Christmas to perma-smiling Andre Rieu’s Jolly Holiday, whose title irks in Boris’s one-day-only-Christmas Britain. The reindeer bells have not fallen silent

Look at the cover of Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s Together At Christmas, and the Grinch in you thinks, “Hope you’re in a social bubble, beardy boys, otherwise shouldn’t you be two metres apart?”.

Everything begins to rile in stymied 2020: the year when pretty much everything has been too late, except, ironically for the glut of Christmas albums, their jolliness too early, too out of step with these long dark nights.

Maybe they want to perk up spirits, maybe they know that a Christmas hit lasts forever, from The Waitresses to Jona Lewie to Mariah Carey; that this Christmas will be the last Christmas of its strange kind…er, hopefully.

The best Christmas records usually wrap the season in both happiness and sadness, but 2020’s anaesthetic stockpile largely prefers to keep the Covid elephant out of the room. At least Andrew Bird’s Hark! acknowledges what’s going on in Christmas At April, and even Robbie Williams penned Can’t Stop Christmas! (“Santa’s on his sleigh, but now he’s two metres away” et al).

“The people gonna need something to believe in/After a year of being in,” offers Little Saint Robbie as his thought for the day, hoping the addition of his zeitgeist new single will entice you to buy 2020’s deluxe re-issue of last winter’s The Christmas Present.

“It’s never been like this before/It feels like we’re at war,” rhymes Robbie. At least that cliche sends CharlesHutchPress running for John & Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), his Christmas record for this and every year.

Together again, this time for Christmas: Ball & Boe reconvene for another assault on the top spot

Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, Together At Christmas (Decca)****

Wrapping: Have you ever seen a bad photograph of Messrs Ball & Boe? Both scrub up nicely in a series of photographs presumably taken at London’s Queen’s Theatre.

Gifts inside: Traditional, in every way, Together at Chrismas sports ten gilt-edged classics (Silent Night, O Holy Night and I’ll Be Home At Christmas) and two new songs, including My Christmas Will Be Better Than Yours.  

Style: Guests Gregory Porter and Phoebe Street join the festivities accompanied by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Michael and Alfie know their audience’s tastes and deliver in trumps.

Scrooge moan? None with the record, but after Les Miserables re-opened with a stellar cast of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Matt Lucas and our boys, what a shame the show has been forced to close again.

White Christmas? Of course, Michael and Alfie cover Irving Berlin’s evergreen classic. It would be unthinkable not to do so.

Blue Christmas: Everyone has already made their mind up about Michael Ball & Alfie Boe. Those that love them will find this inspirational and uplifting.

Stocking or shocking? We all know someone who would LOVE this Christmas offering. Go on. It’s good to be nice to each other, especially this year.

Ian Sime

The Hello Darlins: First venture into musical wilds

The Hello Darlins, Heart In The Snow (Hello Darlins) ****

Wrapping: An inviting porch, looking out on an early snow fall, with the last of the autumn reds still in the forest. This EP is simply presented with the track-listing framed by monochromatic bare winter branches.

Gifts inside: Four songs over 13 minutes provide a seasonal aperitif. One More Christmas is a sentimental number for a family member who made it as far as Christmas Eve. Confusingly, it shares a title with Yorkshire’s own O’Hooley and Tidow’s (better) song of the same name from 2017’s Winterfolk. Given how the pandemic is preventing families everywhere from coming together, this could take on anthemic qualities.

Style: The Hello Darlins are a Canadian roots band. While each member has a successful career as a sideman for illustrious others, as a unit this is their first venture into the musical wilds. A Christmas EP is not a standard career-opening move, which bodes well. Here they present three new songs to sit alongside the chestnut, Do You Hear What I Hear.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Unlike the season itself, this is short and sweet and the singing is enough to quiet an unsettled mind.

Scrooge moan? It floats amiably by, but in three breaths it is gone. Such is the lot of an EP.

White Christmas? No hide nor hair of it.

Blue Christmas? Reflective and still, or as the band would have it, “peaceful, comforting and familiar”. On balance, that is how most would take their Christmas.

Stocking or shocking? This is an unexpected treat for anyone sitting by the tree wishing for another Alison Krauss to appear. The Hello Darlins’ first proper album, Go By Feel, is out in the spring.

Paul Rhodes

Calexico’s artwork for Seasonal Shift: Is this Christmas? In 2020, yes!

Calexico, Seasonal Shift (City Slang) ****

Wrapping: A lonesome, empty caravan, aglow with fairylights and a mysteriously welcoming open door, is parked up in a deserted desert-scape, the hills beyond defined by distant light. Is this the Grand Canyon? Possibly? Is this Christmas? In 2020, yes.

Gifts inside: Giant Sand alumni Joey Burns and John Convertino’s long-seasoned Americana/Tex-Mex indie rock band from the American south west of Tucson, Arizona top up seven new Burns compositions and one Convertino instrumental with covers of John & Yoko, Hugo Blanco and Tom Petty (Christmas All Over Again, so much more warmer than Goo Goo Dolls’ pedestrian version) on Calexico’s first holiday album.

Style: Have yourself a not-so-merry, dance alone, reflective, but apt for 2020 little Christmas with these Tex-Mex, Hispanic, North American, even pan-global winter holiday songs as Calexico go international with Burns and Convertino putting in their Seasonal Shift with guest collaborators Bombino, Gaby Moreno, Gisela Joao, Camilo Lara and Devotchka’s Nick Urata, all recording individually at home studios across Planet Earth.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Gaby Moreno’s joyous singing on the stand-out winter- warming cover of Blanco’s Mi Burrito Sabanero and the sudden burst of hip-hop in Sonoran Snoball, the bright-light break-out release from 2020’s oppressive winter bleakness.

Scrooge moan: Why couldn’t more Christmas albums in 2020 strike the mood and sentiment struck here, especially on Tanta Tristeza, Burns’s duet of lament with Gisela Joao?

White Christmas? No snow here, but the gorgeous cover of another Christmas landmark, John & Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), resonates anew with the addition of pedal steel and Tijuana trumpets.

Blue Christmas? Burns’smood-setting ballad, Fairytale Of New York-echoing opener Hear The Bellsis mournful, drowning sorrows in the rain, while Seasonal Shift waves bye-bye to 2020 and its “complex holidays” with its good-riddance sentiment of “There it goes ’round the bend/The year that would never end”. Convertino’s lovely Glory’s Hope is all the more lonesome for promising neither.

Stocking or shocking: Shock of shocks, an unexpected, unpredictable 2020 Christmas record that should be nestling by the bedside for Christmas morning opening.

Dolly Parton: First Christmas holiday album in 30 years

Dolly Parton, A Dolly Holly Christmas (Butterfly Records) ****

Wrapping: Dolly is looking as stunning as ever. If possible, try to track down all the variously coloured vinyl versions: red, white, green and gold!

Gifts inside: On her first Christmas album in 30 years, Dolly has roped in a feast of friendly celebs to make this a great party – Michael Buble, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, Ray Nelson, brother Randy Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus and even his naughty daughter Miley!

Style: Dolly’s unique brand of Country crosses all the genres, giving us a huge Yuletide smile.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: As if we ever needed another reason to love Dolly, we have learned that Ms Parton financially contributed handsomely to the Moderna Covid 19 vaccine. What a woman!

Scrooge moan? Don’t be silly, 47 albums into her career, everyone loves Dolly!

White Christmas? Not here. Most of the songs are brand new Dolly compositions, although she does cover Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas Is You!, alongside the likes of Holly Jolly Christmas, Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas with Buble and Christmas Is with Miley.

Blue Christmas? Even when Dolly sings sad music, there is an inspirational uplifting spirit at its heart.

Stocking or shocking? Everyone loves the sight of Dolly’s stockings!

Ian Sime

Goo Goo Dolls: Too much goo, like an over-rich Christmas pudding

Goo Goo Dolls, It’s Christmas All Over (Warner Bros) **

Wrapping: Evocative of sleeves of Christmas yore by Dino and Elvis, with a Recorded In Glorious Stereo! boast, song titles on both front and red and green-lettered back. Fairy lights decorate a piano and guitar; inside, more red and green is the de rigueur colour code for the lyrics.

Gifts inside: Veteran Buffalo, New York rockers “always wanted to make some cool music for the season”, duly combining classics, a hymn and two new John Rzeznik originals “for fun”.

Style: From March beginnings in a vintage Boyle Heights studio in LA, Rzeznik and co set out to ape classic Yule records they grew up with, alas without adding their own stamp. They aim for sentimentality at times, reflections at others, but “most of all to make you smile and even laugh a bit”. Largely, they misfire, except for…

’Tis the reason to be jolly: This Is Christmas, an epic Christmas twist on Taylor Swift’s favourite Goo Goo Dolls anthem, Iris, 22 years on, and Rzeznik’s bash at You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch daftness, You Ain’t Getting Nothin’. Elsewhere, you ain’t giving noothin’ John.

Scrooge moan: Boil-in-the-bag, desultory, cover-by-numbers renditions of Tom Petty’s Christmas All Over Again, Louis Prima’s Shake Hands With Santa Claus and Alvin & The Chipmunks’ Christmas Don’t Be Late. More originals would have been welcome; Jamie Cullum came up with ten in lockdown for The Pianoman At Christmas; Joey Burns, eight for Calexico’s Seasonal Shift.  

White Christmas? No, but fellow November-onwards supermarket staples Let It Snow and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas bathe in Michael Bublé fragrance without the warmth.

Blue Christmas? A stripped-back piano “cover” of prime-time Goo Goo Dolls, 2006’s Better Days, is newly made Christmas cutesy by Sydney McGorman, daughter of band collaborator Jim McGorman.

Stocking or shocking? Can you think of anyone desperate to hear Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (croak, more like)? No? Me neither.

Charles Hutchinson

Jamie Cullum: “Although all new material, The Pianoman borrows heavily from classic Yuletide jazz albums,” says reviewer Ian Sime

Jamie Cullum, The Pianoman At Christmas (Island Records)*****

Wrapping: If they are still available, try to track down one of the lovely signed gatefold card sleeves.

Gifts inside: Jamie wrote all ten songs during the spring lockdown. His charming swing style is performed to perfection by the cream of the country’s Jazz Musicians.

Style: Although all new material, The Pianoman borrows heavily from classic Yuletide jazz albums. The results feel both fresh yet familiar. That’s what we all love about Christmas anyway?

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Jamie’s printed message to wife Sophie Dahl is heartfelt. I’ve never met Jamie Cullum, yet have the impression he is a true gentleman.

Scrooge moan? Let’s not go there. ’Tis the season to be jolly and send goodwill to all.

White Christmas? Not on this collection. At the other extreme, the gloriously named The Jolly Fat Man sets the scene.

Blue Christmas? Not here. It’s a pretty fair bet that life in the Cullum Household is rather joyous at Christmas.

Stocking or shocking? As much as we love Mariah and Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum brings a fresh glow to Christmas. This will be loved by serious music buffs.

Ian Sime

Lady A: “Modern and tasteful covers of Christmas standards and classics, with just enough twang to keep it country,” says reviewer Paul Rhodes

Lady A, On This Winter’s Night (Deluxe) (BMLG) ****

Wrapping: This winter looks white and perfectly formed. The attractive country/pop trio sparkle on the cover, while they make light work of a snowy walk on the inside cover.

Gifts inside: For the uninitiated, Lady A were previously called Lady Antebellum. That name feels freighted with the wrong connotations for an act that has sold records by the million so the extra letters, country feel and historical shame were binned. This is an updated version of their popular 2012 Christmas record, now appended with an earlier EP and a new song.

Style: Modern and tasteful covers of Christmas standards and classics, with just enough twang to keep it country and dollops of pop harmony.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Once you overcome any inbuilt prejudice towards liking such a wholesome band playing straight-up Christmas songs, then you have to grudgingly admit, it is very well done.

Song selection is great. Adding Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas shows taste. The trio have all become parents, and the only new material, Christmas Through Your Eyes, is a lovely addition to the seasonal canon: parent nip of the finest order.

Scrooge moan? This airbrushed set, presenting an idealised Yuletide where promise forever glimmers, is very out of kilter for the world it finds itself in, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime is hated by many, while slowing down Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is likely to please no-one.

White Christmas? Snow is piled everywhere, but there is no White Christmas here.

Blue Christmas? N’er a blue note. Blue Christmas flirts with jazz but taken as a whole this is pure Christmas escapism.

Stocking or shocking? Music snobs will never forgive you, but almost anyone else will thank you. Easy to imagine it becoming the Christmas go-to record, guaranteed to upset no-one, even grandma.

Paul Rhodes