Emmylou Harris is an artist with the rare sort of voice that communicates an honest and firmly grounded humanity while possessing a crystalline purity that verges on the angelic. In short, she was a singer born to make a great Christmas album, and in 1979 she did just that with Light of the Stable, in which she fused the high-lonesome traditional sound she'd been exploring on Roses in the Snow and Blue Kentucky Girl with songs that honored the spiritual and emotional roots of the holiday season. The album's gestation began with a 1975 single of "Light of the Stable," with most of the material recorded years later, but Harris and producer Brian Ahern gave the project an admirably unified sound, which speaks of Christmas with a quiet dignity that's celebratory but reverent -- this is one of the few Christmas albums from a secular artist that scarcely mentions Santa Claus while focusing clearly on the birth of Christ. Harris and Ahern assembled a stellar cast for these sessions -- the pickers include Ricky Skaggs, James Burton, and Rodney Crowell, while Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Neil Young pitch in backing vocals -- but the results are a marvel of restraint, with precious little showboating and a handful of performances that rank with the performers' best work. If you're looking for a disc that will kick up your Christmas party a few notches, Light of the Stable isn't it, but if you want to hear music of quiet but compelling beauty which warmly resonates with the true meaning of the holidays, then you'll find this album is an experience to treasure.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming