Joseph Langarra / Tony Vandermeer

Norman Rockwell Christmas Memories

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St. Clair Entertainment's Norman Rockwell Christmas Memories -- part of a budget series featuring cover art by the artist -- may appear to be an album of Christmas carols presented in quaint Americana arrangements; but the all-instrumental versions performed by guitarist Joseph Langarra appear to have little to do with the album's title or packaging. In some places, Langarra's acoustic renditions with an uncredited fiddler have the rustic flavor of Appalachian music, as well as an old-fashioned quality that may be tied into the CD's nostalgic theme; yet the occasional use of jazz harmonies and snappy syncopated rhythms contributes to a fusion of styles, and there are also classical pieces, such as the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria and the Canon in D major by Pachelbel, which, along with the light pop arrangements, give this disc the feeling of an adult contemporary crossover album. If this blending of styles is acceptable, then the listener may find this collection to be quite enjoyable for its gentle treatment of well-known holiday songs; the mellow mood is consistent throughout, making this CD suitable as background music for small parties or intimate merry-making. St. Clair's recording is well-balanced and focused, and Langarra's warm-toned guitar is always clearly presented, even when the fiddle is prominently featured.

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