Well, I guess it’s time to have a look at some of the special Christmas offerings available this year.
Chris Jones got things started this week by pulling back the curtain on how holiday recordings are made. So we will try to make note of the many Christmas releases in the bluegrass world over the next week or so. These won’t all be full reviews, but we’ll point you to where you can find out more.
First up is Christmas Time from Rhonda Vincent.
This marks her second album of Christmas music, following her Beautiful Star CD from 2006. This one finds Rhonda in full Santa attire on the cover, with a wide range of guest vocalists and a band made up of some of Nashville’s finest pickers. The project mixes four new bluegrass songs of Vincent’s with grass-tinged acoustic arrangements of classic holiday favorites.
It’s great to see new Yuletide songs being written in bluegrass, as holiday shows have begun to proliferate in our music, and bluegrass radio typically devoting at least one or two shows to Christmas songs each year. Rhonda’s done her part with Dreaming Of Christmas, Christmas Time, Christmas Time At Home, and Milk & Cookies, all fitting right in with her grassy, acoustic country vibe.
But she doesn’t forget the treasured classics, either. There are lovely renditions of Angels We Have Heard On High, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, The Christmas Song, Away In A Manger, Silent Night, and a super-swingy take on Jingle Bells where Tim Crouch on fiddle, Aubrey Haynie on mandolin, and Jake Stargelon guitar get a chance to stretch out.
The highlight is a sprightly bluegrass version of the Twelve Days Of Christmas, with the various days announced in song by Dolly Parton, Larry Gatlin, Emi Sunshine, The Oak Ridge Boys, Bill Anderson, Gene Watson, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, and Ronnie Milsap. With Jens Kruger on banjo and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, this number really gets the Christmas juices flowing.
The album ends with a sober medley of religious Christmas songs set with just Rhonda’s voice against a simple piano accompaniment from Michael Rojas. Included are What Child Is This, We Three Kings, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, O Holy Night, and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. It’s quite reminiscent of the sort of carol service you might hear over Christmas at a small country church. Vincent demonstrates again why she is among the most celebrated vocalists in the history of bluegrass. Her singing is gorgeous on every track, but hearing it in such a sparse setting really drives home the point.
This girl can really sing – but you knew that.
Christmas Time is available at Rhonda’s web site, and wherever bluegrass music is sold online. Radio programmers can download the tracks from Airplay Direct.
And in the ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ department…
The Moron Brothers have a Christmas special set to air November 28 on Carbon TV. It’s bound to be filled with the irreverent, down home comedy that have made these boys such favorites among lovers of the outdoor life.
Here’s the official promo…