Various Artists

Blue Christmas [Dialtone]

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One of the frequent failings of holiday albums, at least musically, is that they seldom have any internal stylistic integrity, but that isn't an accusation that could be made about this Christmas sampler from Austin's Dialtone Records. Featuring gritty blues and soul blues renditions of both familiar and more obscure holiday fare, it has a consistent tone that is at once both refreshing and comforting. Opening with Richard Earl's ragged, rocking "I Hear Jingle Bells," Blue Christmas manages to inject some soul into the festivities, and Ernestine Fuller's "How I Hate to See Christmas" shows why the blues and the holidays fit better together than one would imagine. She gets her spirit up, though, on the bubbling, jiving "Boogie Woogie Santa" a few tracks later. Clarence Pierce's two electric guitar instrumentals, "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells," are a pair of undeniable gems. Christmas never sounded so good or so real.

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