Various Artists

O Christmas Tree!: A Bluegrass Collection for the Holidays

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Sooner or later, every artist in every genre comes to a crossroads: to record or not to record holiday songs, that is the question. It might be easy to argue, from a critic's point of view, that the world doesn't really need another version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Winter Wonderland." But what about bluegrass versions of these songs by Lynn Morris and the Shankman Twins? Certainly Ron Stewart's take on "Silver Bells," backed by fiddle and acoustic guitar, brings something new to this perennial favorite, and it's doubtful that there's ever been a spunkier version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" than the one banjoist Tony Trischka lays down. The truth is, it's fun to hear these overly familiar songs get a fresh makeover. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver's a cappella medley of "The First Noel/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Joy to the World" captures the simple beauty of these solemn carols, while Open Road's tradition-fueled "Blue Christmas" would have made Bill Monroe smile. O Christmas Tree also collects a few less familiar pieces (at least to city folks) like "Christmas Is Near," "Smoky Mountain Christmas," and "Call Collect on Christmas." With 18 songs/instrumentals and nearly an hour of music, this compilation will make a fine addition to one's holiday music collection.

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