Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Christmas Around the World

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2000's World Christmas was certainly one of the most entertaining and enlightening collections of Christmas carols in quite a while, so the similar theme of Putumayo's Christmas Around the World is no surprise. The problem is, the label's latest Yuletide set can't figure out whether it's a sequel or a reissue. The two albums share four songs, including tracks from Pepe Castillo, Steve Schuch, and Michael Doucet. Additionally, Cuba L.A.'s "Deck the Hall" comes from the band's 2000 effort, Navidad Cubana. While the track list is puzzling, Around the World is still a spectacular set. From Martinique comes banjoist Kali, who performs the silent standard "Douce Nuit"; meanwhile, Clifford Sylvain's New York Twoubadou turns in "Joyeux Noël," a song in the upbeat Haitian troubadour style that fairly bursts with delightful energy. And though Schuch and his Night Heron Consort arrange the English carol "Here We Come A-Wassailing" in a beautiful Celtic style, with accents of penny whistle and bodhran, it's not going to be anything you haven't heard if you bought World Christmas. If Putumayo has proved anything in its near ten-year existence, it's that the world is a big place. This makes the label's lackluster effort in searching out new material for Christmas Around the World a bit disappointing. Recommended for listeners new to the label, but Putumayo veterans might do well to spin this in a CD carousel with the imprint's previous Christmas compilations. [Christmas Around the World's accompanying booklet includes informative artist biographies and detailed song histories, as well as pronunciation keys where appropriate.]

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