december 2008

Various Artists
MCA Special Products
Released: 2002

A more amiable Yuletide celebration than Christmas On The Mountain (originally released on Universal South) you're not likely to find. Credit for the great spirit and good humor driving the all-acoustic performances here goes to the Del McCoury Band, whose members serve as masters of ceremonies, introducing fellow guests Mac Wiseman, Doc Watson and the Osborne Brothers in their cheerful, folksy style on the opening Ronnie McCoury-penned toe-tapper, "Bluegrass Christmas," and then staying around to perform on six other tracks (sometimes billed as the Groovegrass Boyz, who are the Del McCoury Band minus Del) including a tasty fiddle-and-banjo-fired treatment of "Auld Lang Syne" to close the album on a heartfelt note. The Osbornes offer a seasonally updated version of "Rocky Top" titled "Christmas Time on Rocky Top," which celebrates the Christmas season, homecoming in the mountains and the U. of Tennessee's football team ("there's magic everywhere/when that football's in the air/and it's Christmastime on Rocky Top"). Tex Logan's enduring classic "Christmas Time's A Comin'" gets a spirited treatment from the McCoury Band instrumentalists supplemented by dobro master Jerry Douglas, as Del, Mac Wiseman and Doc Watson one-up each other in the warm, cozy vocals department. For a change of pace, Cyndi Wheeler sits in with the McCourys and delivers a heartbreaking, high lonesome treatment of "I'll Be Home for Christmas," followed by Del laying on the blues inflections in a minimalist treatment of "Blue Christmas." Tim O'Brien is happy to play Scrooge in his good-natured, one-man-band complaint, "Bah Humbug," in which he's looking forward to the next slug of egg nog to dull the pain of his depleted bank account. In bringing the theme back to reflections on the joys of home and hearth from years past, Mac Wiseman's beautiful traditional country meditation "Christmas Memories" strikes the proper chord of shared love that best evokes the seasonal spirit, adding precisely the right note of gravitas and sentiment to an altogether indispensable Christmas feast in song.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024