George Huff

My Christmas EP!

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It's hard not to feel a little bad for George Huff. He was one of the best, most likable singers on the third season of the nationally televised talent contest American Idol, and he was one of the few vocalists who seemed to have the potential to easily cross over from the show's teenage fan base to an older audience, and make interesting records in the process, too. That's because he had an old-fashioned, classic soul voice -- as Simon Cowell notoriously and accurately claimed, Huff sounded like he could have been a second-string Temptation. But since he was voted off halfway through the season -- while lesser talents like the pretty Jasmine Trias hung around a while longer -- he didn't have the opportunity to get a high-profile record contract, the way that the third-season winner Fantasia Barrino or her runner-up, Diana DeGarmo, did. He wound up signing with Word and, since it was important for him to get product into the stores by the end of the year lest he run the risk of being forgotten, his debut wound up being an EP of holiday songs. Appropriately, it's titled My Christmas EP!, which may be accurate, but the enthusiasm conveyed with the exclamation point seems a little strange -- after all, unless you're Mannheim Steamroller or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it's hard to make much of a splash with a debut of Christmas songs. Unfortunately, the record does seem a little rushed. The production is a bit too synthesized and clean, and Huff would have sounded better in warmer settings. He also would have sounded better on a livelier set of songs. Three of the five selections here force him to sing in a low register, which is not his strength; in this register, he seems to swallow his words, and it doesn't capture his innate, cheerful charm. Fortunately, the jazzy "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the gospel "Go Tell It on the Mountain" capture him in a better setting, one where he springs to life and delivers the kind of performances that made him a real contender in the spring of 2004. Sure, the recordings aren't perfect -- they're a little cheesy and sterile, a little too predictable -- but Huff shines through, and suggests that he has a good full-length record in him (which, according to the back of the CD, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2005). It's just too bad that he wasn't given a chance to debut with a proper album instead of this seasonal placeholder.

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