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Janelle Nadeau – Star of Night – Album Review

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Manitoba-Vancouver transfer Janelle Nadeau is one of the few artists really representing harp in  modern music, and it allows her a unique cross-genre strength that’s hard to find anymore. Making a Christmas album that you won’t feel cheesy to put on, Nadeau’s amazing performance and earnest delivery makes this one of the most personal and intricate sounding Christmas records you’ll hear this holiday.

More than a simple Christmas novelty, the album opens on the brooding tones of “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” with an old-world charm in its spritely playing among dark chords. Picking up the pace for a much more invigorating rush on “Huron Carol,” Nadeau finally lets her voice loose on the mysterious “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” where she sings about good blessings with something more sinister behind her vocals. This mix of beauty with something more malevolent rings true on “What Child is This” as well through the pointed harp playing, with each pluck ringing with a devastating resonance.

Upping the rhythmic kick, “We Three Kings” mixes the guitars in with a grooving percussion section for a track that soar in its ability to switch guitars between chords and emotive solos. Stripping the sound down to just the harp on “Silent Night,” Nadeau is able to control the delivery wholly here for serene tones that slowly trail off into worrying moments. Even through the rugged tones of “Do You Hear What I Hear” there’s a definite pop to Nadeau’s vocal work on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that stands out even stronger.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful” plays short and sweet as a twinkling interlude, that finds its emotional core in the layered performance that Nadeau musters here, even managing to interject a deeper sadness into its final notes. Pulling from U2 on “Peace On Earth” Nadeau is able to find her own voice, while taking on apt cover for herself. The delightfully tender retelling of the track makes for a absolutely heartbreaking finale to an already intimate record.

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Owen Maxwell