From an outsider's point of view

I'm lucky. Songs from Ronan’s new album Winter Songs are really a novelty to me, I haven't heard them before. Oh, except for Silent Night of course and It's Only Christmas that I have known from some live recording. That means I don't have to think about the songs being covers and comparing who sings what better, I'll leave it to those who maybe cherish some particular performance of each of the songs and would surely want to share their opinions ;-))

Believe it or not, there are parts of the world where the term "winter songs" applies only to Wham!'s Last Christmas kind of songs (which is indeed a great tune by the way) and where the songs choice made for this album would be quite a surprise. Personally I can't say I didn't expect this album to be thoughtful, reflective and classic in style because after Songs For My Mother I knew that's the type of music Ronan loves and understands very well. The Winter Songs album only confirms that Ronan is a singer for whom lyrics come first, what he does in his singing is actually telling stories about people and their emotions. Every line he delivers with his husky voice is deeply thought through, his strength of expression comes from awareness of the meaning of every word he sings. That's why he makes those songs his own immediately, the emotions he expresses are absolutely believable. It only takes as much as a simple (yet beautiful and characteristic) piano riff and his gentle vocals to make Winter Song such an impressive song, it's one of the most intimate and touching love confessions I have ever heard. I wish Ro's voice was always treated that way by his producer, yet I must say there are some songs that seem slightly overproduced - less is better sometimes and personally I think the song Ring Them Bells could go without that delay audio effect. On the other end there is this sophisticated arrangement for River, where the piano is playing constantly with a short Jingle Bells segment - so lovely!

Fortunately it's not a typical Christmas album, there are no bells ringing, very little snow and only one angel… (Rest in peace Steo, Little Drummer Boy will always be a very special song for your fans). Winter Songs is rather a collection of beautiful ballads recorded with an orchestra, classic in style and contemplative. Ronan puts all his sensitivity and sensuality in his singing and sounds his best. I'm also happy to hear Tracy Ackerman on backing vocals - I'm a fan of their duets since they sang Melting Pot on Boyzone’s A Different Beat album, they sound really great together.
This album is worth listening carefully - firstly to appreciate fully the mastery of Ronan's vocals, the beauty of lyrics and richness of arrangements, secondly in order to decide if it is really Ro's huge grin that you can  h e a r  in Stay (3 min. 26 sec. into the song)?

And one more thing I have to mention. One of the pictures of Ronan taken by Emma Hardy for the album booklet. I mean the one you can see after taking the CD out of the box. It proves that Ronan is indeed a very elegant, stylish and good-looking guy. And that he has a damn wicked sense of humor!

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