On the lookout for a Christmas album made since the passing of Bing Crosby that won't drive you crazy? Classical guitarist Giovanni De Chiaro just may have the answer with his Centaur disc The Sounds of Christmas on Guitar. This disc, and its predecessor, Christmas on Guitar, are among Louisiana-based classical label Centaur's best sellers. At the Centaur office, it's a running joke that they already know when someone's calling to order one of De Chiaro's albums, as the callers are invariably folks who aren't the type who usually go asking for classical music recordings. It is easy to see why De Chiaro's guitar playing has built an audience among the classically challenged; it is warm, crisp, and inviting, like the warmth from a well-fueled, cracking fireplace with yule log ablaze. De Chiaro is a retired professor of guitar from the University of Mississippi, and he did not make his Christmas discs for a commercial reason -- he is justly proud of his arrangements of Christmas standards for the guitar and wanted to make recordings of them available for students and other players to study and learn. Of course, the rest of us benefit as well; just listen to how well he has transferred Leroy Anderson's unfortunately overexposed favorite Sleigh Ride to the sound of the acoustic guitar. It sounds completely new and will make you fall in love with Sleigh Ride again no matter how inundated with the piece you've been thanks to its overuse in advertising.
The Christmas season is a stressful enough time in itself, not to mention having to contend with the added annoyance of what passes for Christmas music in the context of twenty first century pop music -- "Christmas with my homeboys," or a standard Christmas carol ululated out of proportion by some over-rated diva to the accompaniment of sycophantic synthesizers. Take that Christmas album out of the changer, toss it out into the snow where it belongs, and pick up The Sounds of Christmas on Guitar for a genuine dose of Christmas cheer to go with your spiced apple cider, presents, and holiday family time.