It's hard to separate tenor Carl Tanner from stories of his rise to fame: one has it that, back when he was a trucker, he was singing with the windows down when a prescient stranger told him he had missed his calling and should move to New York. Another sets him up as a hapless waiter who, urged on by a bartender, sang for Richard Gaddes, the star-making director of the Santa Fe Opera, during a chance encounter at the restaurant where he worked. Instead of detracting from his first full-length holiday CD, Hear the Angel Voices, these stories -- which could be anywhere from two to 100 percent true -- manage to enhance it: no one expects a waiter or a truck driver to sing "O Holy Night" with this much fire and conviction, and no one expects a voice as rich and as fully formed to sneak up so suddenly, with as little fanfare. From first track, "Joy to the World," to closer "The Christmas Song," Tanner infuses these classic carols, as well as hymns such as "The Lord's Prayer," with a potent combination of strength and seriousness. Seekers of true holiday spirit will find few discs as inspiring, and suckers for a real-life rags-to-riches story will love it too. Hear the Angel Voices plays like a yuletide gift with a lingering message: occasionally, talent trumps all.
AllMusic Review by Tammy La Gorce