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Shelby Lynne - Merry Christmas

Shelby Lynne

Merry Christmas

(Everso Records)

There are two mistakes that many artists make with Christmas records. One is radically reinventing and reinterpreting the classics, and the other is stacking a set with half-baked yuletide originals in what almost always ends up a failed attempt to craft holiday chestnuts that will last years. (Usually we want to forget them after the first listen.) Thank goodness that singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne is too good to fall into either trap. Lynne closes out a top-notch 2010—following the album Tears, Lies and Alibis and “Tragedy,” a duet with Peter Wolf on his Midnight Souvenirs, which is the song of the year in my book—with Merry Christmas, a collection that serves up pretty much everything you could want out of a Christmas album.

The stars of the record are Lynne’s smoky, twangy, country-soul voice, as well as the songs themselves. Lynne picks a batch of her favorites while offering up a pair of inspired original carols, too: the stripped-down but rich and warm “Ain’t Nothing Like Christmas” and the sultry jazz tones of the under-the-tree tale “Xmas.” These songs are a lot of fun, and she makes that apparent on the Tex Logan-penned bluegrass favorite “Christmas Time’s A-Coming,” her vivacious take on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and a down-home reading of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

All of this gives Merry Christmas the feel of a classic through and through, with the kind of timeless sound and soul that suggests it could have been recorded in 1966 or last week. Either way, it will last as long and prove a record that is going to be pulled out every December for years and years to come.

donny kutzbach

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