Released the year after he was voted Best Acoustic Guitarist for a second time by Guitar Player magazine, Australian virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel further establishes his esteemed reputation with this collection of festive covers, All I Want for Christmas. Indeed, the likes of "White Christmas," "Mary's Boy Child," and "The Christmas Song" may not be the most inventive of song choices, but even armed with just a solitary acoustic guitar, the Grammy Award nominee manages to put his own spin on material that's become part of the yuletide fabric. Co-produced with Nashville arranger John Knowles, Emmanuel's legendary fingerpicking skills are unsurprisingly the star of the show, whether it's the clever call-and-response riffs of the playful reworking of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," the flashes of flamenco on the jazz-tinged "Winter Wonderland," or the authentic country hooks of "Jingle Bells." But the more expansive production also helps breathe new life into the likes of "Silent Night," which is turned into a gorgeous orchestral lullaby, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," whose bluesy guitars are accompanied by some playful scat vocals, and "How Great Thou Art?" which is underpinned by layers of warm strings and gentle brush-stroke percussion, while the two new compositions, the melancholic "The Magic of Christmas Time" and the suitably wintry "One Christmas Night," are worthy of sitting alongside the more renowned seasonal classics. All I Want for Christmas may not exactly revolutionize the art of the Christmas album, but it's a heart-warming effort which should get most fans of instrumental jazz-pop in the mood for the holidays.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien