Released half a year after What We Want, What We Get, this holiday album finds Dave Barnes casually occupying the intersection between pop, adult contemporary, acoustic folk, and Christian music. Barnes’ Southern roots are on full display here; each song plays up the soulful swagger of his voice, and he keeps the arrangements relatively sparse, relying on a mix of acoustic guitar, brushed percussion, and Hammond organ that conjures up images of after-hours jazz clubs. Thad Cockrell, another Deep South songwriter with ties to the CCM scene, makes an appearance on “Mary & Joseph,” and Barnes fills the title track with gospel harmonies courtesy of Tennessee friends Drew Ramsey, Shannon Sanders, and Scat Springs. The highlight, though, is his duet with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott on “Christmas Tonight,” a Barnes original that takes its cues from the Frank Loesser standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Some perfectly fine covers are tossed into the mix, too, including Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but Very Merry Christmas functions best as a showcase for Barnes’ songwriting and singing, both of which are in fine form throughout.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey