Rhonda Vincent

Beautiful Star: The Christmas Collection

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For her first Christmas album, bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent departs significantly from her usual mode, leaving behind both her regular band (though members pitch in on various tracks) and the mainstream of bluegrass tradition. Looking at this track list, the first thought that comes to mind is "How will she do a bluegrass version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"? Or "Let It Snow"?" The answer: she won't. She takes both of those songs in a swinging, jazzy style, with (gasp!) a snare drum, and while she doesn't exactly make them her own, she certainly does them justice. One the more bluegrassy side are a straight-ahead rendition of the inevitable "Christmas Time's A-Comin'" and a nicely adapted version of "O Christmas Tree" that manages to translate that song's natural waltz rhythm to a rollicking four/four without doing it any damage. The title track, one of the most beautiful songs in the bluegrass gospel repertoire, is handled in an expert if not quite inspired manner, and Vincent's arrangement of the program-ending "Twelve Days of Christmas" is lots of good, light-hearted fun. The occasional incursions of non-standard instrumentation vary from questionable (the accordion on "Winter Wonderland") to inspired (the Celtic harp on "Away in a Manger"). Recommended.

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