There are times when you say thank God for the people at Free Reed, who put together the world's best box sets. This one, themed around Christmas and New Year, might have been a dire effort in some hands, but with the imagination expended here, Midwinter sparkles. And if you think four CDs is far too much space for this, listen and think again. There are readings in between the music, and everything is about context. So there are archive recordings (the one from 1937 featuring Phil Tanner is a standout) that show how Christmas is not about a man in a red suit, but ceremony. This is folk music and where it fits into the culture of the ages. Compiler Nigel Schofield has done a scrupulously thorough job on his research (as the accompanying book -- and it is a book -- shows), so you get carols from South Yorkshire that you won't hear elsewhere next to Richard Fariña or Maddy Prior rubbing cheeks with Boris Karloff. It's impossible to resist, really, but out of this seeming hodgepodge emerges a much clearer picture of the season. There's nothing obvious, nothing twee, and it's never simplistic. Hear this and you'll never think of Christmas in quite the same way again.