Patty Loveless

Bluegrass and White Snow: A Mountain Christmas

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In the wake of the success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, with its traditional country and bluegrass music, Epic Records green-lighted Patty Loveless' plan to record an acoustic country album, and she earned critical kudos and respectable sales for 2001's Mountain Soul. Bluegrass and White Snow: A Mountain Christmas, her holiday follow-up, repeats the approach on a collection of traditional and original seasonal music. As with Mountain Soul, Loveless and her husband and producer, Emory Gordy, Jr., display their knowledge of bluegrass and mountain music, filling the tracks with mandolins, dobros, and fiddles, over which Loveless sings fervently in her Kentucky twang. But the songs on Mountain Soul tended to be ones written in the styles in which they were being played, whereas many of the Christmas carols heard here are being adapted to these arrangements. "Silver Bells," for example, isn't even a traditional song, but rather a composition by the Hollywood movie songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and "Little Drummer Boy," another ringer, is given perhaps its first arrangement not to feature any drums. Meanwhile, in his pursuit of a mountain sound, Gordy isn't above eliminating his wife, whose name is on the front of the album: "Carol of the Bells" is an instrumental featuring the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble on which Loveless does not perform. The album is better, and sounds more authentic, on country-oriented material such as "Christmas Time's a Comin'" and "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem," and on the three new songs written by Loveless and Gordy, especially the up-tempo "Santa Town" and "Christmas Day at My House," which should have been sequenced earlier on the disc for better balance. So, while effective, the album is not as good as it could have been.

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