Gilmore's seasonal album 'Strange Communion' would be number one. Slowly, the word is getting out and Caroline Sullivan in last Friday's 'Guardian' acknowledged its undoubted power ( Sting's latest got slammed).
All this follows seeing her perform live at Aberdare last week : a truly memorable gig. Apart from 'Fairytale of New York' I've got no time for Christmas songs at all ( I even resisted buying Sufjan Stevens' triple album of them ). Gilmore, on the other hand, avoids all the platitudes and twee Christian observations.
Her voice is as powerfully moving live as on record ( a rarity in itself ) and she's backed by fine musicians in Nigel Stonier (who co-wrote two songs) and Fluff on violin, who is up there with The Waterboys' Steve Wickham : fiery one song and full of feeling the next.
There are so many high-points it's hard to choose : great versions of Ono's 'Listen,the snow is falling' and Costello's 'The St. Stephen's day Murders' ; her poignant pagan hymn sung a capella, 'Sol Invictus' and the singalong 'That'll be Christmas', with its apt descriptions of all the contradictions.
Gilmore has a good line in self-deprecation - 'It could be the last time you see us in a venue like this.' When the band launched into 'Mainstream' from the album 'Avalanche' you were carried along by her ever-the-outsider stance, which I hope will never be lost, because it's created so many excellent songs like 'Lip reading' and 'Straight Lines'. Go along to her Wintertide tour and get your album signed with kisses after : can't see Lily Allen doing that!
One of the most amusing Christmas poems ever is Benjamin Zephaniah's 'Talking Turkeys' , which addresses them as friends in a Jamaican dialect, making a plea for them to be spared the ritual slaughter - 'It could be yu mate, an not on your plate'.
I once tried a similar thing with 'Turkeys aren't pets' which, together with 'The essence of presents' appears in one of Seren's best ever sellers,the 'Christmas in Wales' anthology. The latter's based very closely on the truth. My father was the specialist and did give me a rusty tin-opener which had belonged to my grandad! With a father like that, you'd think my mother would have compensated ; however, she was just as parsimonious and once sent my wife a pair of plain knickers, not even wrapped!
My sister carries on the family tradition, sometimes sending goods bought from charity shops ; all well and good, but they tend to be the grubby, tattered variety and my children didn't appreciate being sent text-books one time. This year, we had a envelope full of hazelnuts picked by a friend of hers, together with a scrawled recipe for vegan nut roast. Now where is that nut-cracker, or shall I just enlist the help of the local squirrel?
This one's even more influenced by Zephaniah :-
GOBBLE GOBBLE UNITE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The turkeys are going on strike
for Christmas, showing their might –
Zephaniah was right,
they’re up for a fight.
The Amalgamated Association of Turkeys
are saying – ‘ Hey, brother cluckers,
raise your beaks in pride,
let’s beat with drumsticks, alright?’
The turkeys have had enough,
telling those human butchers to get stuffed –
they couldn’t give a pluck
that people will have to roast their nuts.
The turkeys are keeping their feathers on,
they won’t be free range
they’ll be out of range,
so organic they’ll be wandering away.
Turn up the Turkey Power,
they’ve got a bone to pick –
the turkeys are going on strike,
it’s - ‘Gobble gobble unite!’