Top positive review
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Not a typical "Christmas" album -- way better!
on October 1, 2008
All I can say is, WOW. This is one fantastic album.
First and foremost, this is a Mary Chapin Carpenter album, not a Christmas album. While the theme of the songs may be Christmas and holiday, it's an album I'll be listening to year 'round.
One of the great things about this album is that the majority of the material is not what you'd call "traditional" Christmas songs. Only three of the songs fall into the "traditional" category -- "Once In Royal David's City," "Still, Still, Still" and "Children, Go Where I Send Thee." And I can't name very many albums by popular artists that have included any of these three songs.
The rest of the material is "new" (meaning original songs written in the last couple of decades). Tommy Thompson's "Hot Buttered Rum" and Robin & Linda Williams' "On a Quiet Christmas Morn" are two of these "new" songs. Most of the rest of the songs were written by Mary Chapin Carpenter herself ("Christmas Time In the City" and "Bells Are Ringing" were co-written by MCC with John Jennings).
For me, the most fascinating inclusion on this album is John Rutter's "Candlelight Carol." I know this as a choral piece, and it's one of John Rutter's most melodic choral pieces. Mary Chapin Carpenter's version is simply superb, driving the duple meter while keeping the lullaby feel of the song.
Most MCC fans will recognize "Christmas Time In the City" and "Bells Are Ringing" -- both were previously released on various-artist Christmas compilations. But the versions on this CD are entirely new -- new acoustic arrangements, new vocals, and, in the case of "Christmas Time In the City," some new lyrics.
As far as the production of this album, this is bare-bones Mary Chapin Carpenter. She herself handles the vocals and some acoustic guitar, and John Jennings and Jon Carroll provide all the other instrumentation. That's it. Mary Chapin Carpenter even did the photography for the CD booklet, all photos of her own farm. The sum of this is an album that feels like a very personal Christmas gift, created especially for you.
So to all you Mary Chapin Carpenter fans out there, to all you who like Christmas music, to anyone who likes singer-songwriters of any sort: BUY THIS CD! Even if you don't like Christmas music, you'll like this album. Trust me. Not a "Silent Night" or "White Christmas" in sight!
All that being said, if you go to iTunes, you can download a bonus track -- a "traditional" Christmas song, nonetheless. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is available there as the thirteenth song of Christmas. Thankfully, it's available to download as an individual track, so you don't have to download the whole album to get that one song. It's a lovely performance, and I'm glad I have it, but I'm also glad they chose not to include it on the CD, as it just doesn't fit...