Paul Brandt

A Gift

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For the second time in his career, Canadian country neo-traditionalist, or former neo-traditionalist Paul Brandt issues a Christmas recording. The reason for the comment "former" in front of neo-traditionalist is because here on A Gift, his opening read of "Let It Snow," would be more at home on a Louis Prima or Brian Setzer record with a huge horn section and a string orchestra to match. The tune swings in beat fashion with only an upright piano and a pedal steel to remind the listener that Brandt's supposed to be a country singer, though to be fair, his voice betrays this as well. The title cut brings us back to earth, however, and offers the listener renewed proof as to why Brandt is one of the best country singers in the business. He's up there with George Strait, Ronnie Dunn, and Randy Travis. In fact, the title track is so moving it's almost worth the purchase price by itself. Other tracks don't fare so well. "White Christmas" just doesn't cut it, and it's not his fault; there are so many fine readings of this it's tough to find one that makes it in the big leagues. The bluesy, funky reading of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is original and fine, and the track "Christmas Convoy" should never have been thought of, let alone recorded. "Mary Did You Know," and "Hands" are gorgeous, though. So A Gift is a mixed bag, but there are certainly cuts here for anyone's Christmas compilation.

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