Drew Holcomb

A Neighborly Christmas

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Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors present a collection of holiday evergreens in their characteristic combination of country, blues, and rockabilly styles on A Neighborly Christmas. The mood overall is more downbeat than might be expected, with, for example, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" being presented in a slow, thoughtful arrangement utterly unlike the march that most carolers turn it into. Singer Ellie Holcomb figures prominently in the vocals, taking the lead on "Blue Christmas," the original composition "Merry Christmas Tonight" (which she co-wrote), and "Away in a Manger," after joining her bandleader husband in a duet on the lead-off track, "Baby It's Cold Outside." In contrast to the generally somber tone, "Silent Night," usually presented as a dirge, here gets a midtempo folk-rock arrangement that belies its lyric; all is not calm this time. Drew Holcomb's spotlight comes at the official end of the disc, when he is accompanied only by a solo piano on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which allows him to bring out the bittersweet words of that seasonal favorite; his voice is in the same register as Rufus Wainwright's, but its timbre is a bit more gruff and considerably less sonorous. That isn't quite the finish, however, and the band proves it can celebrate by adding as a hidden track an exhilarating "Jingle Bells."

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