december 2009

Released: 2006

Having already cut a classic country Christmas album with her mom (Christmas Time With the Judds), Wynonna continues her artistic resurgence with a solo Yuletide album that shows a mature singer at her best. Working with the two main men behind The Judds' timeless music (producers/arrangers Don Potter and Brent Maher), and employing an absolute master of string arrangements in Bergen White, Wynonna delivers a stirring, concise (11 tracks) holiday greeting, its first half being a warm, cozy call to luxuriate in seasonal joys such as homecomings ("I'll Be Home for Christmas"), wistful reflections on seasonal totems that make the Yuletide gay ("The Christmas Song"), the allure of nature's distinctive wintertime pallet ("Winter Wonderland") and a requisite touch of melancholy to balance out the emotions ( "White Christmas"). The final five songs in the sequence honor the season's sacred side, Wynonna turning stately and reverent on "Ave Maria," "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night." The lush orchestrations and silky backing choruses are reminiscent of the approaches of Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole on their great Christmas albums of yore, but vocally Wy settles down partly in R&B territory, partly on pop turf, her phrasing and sensuality reminiscent of both Etta James and Rosie Clooney. Sounding completely at home in this mode, she effortlessly reinvigorates the well-worn repertoire by simply letting the songs come to her; as she works on nuance and shading in her readings, her producers keep the orchestra and chorus in a subtle supporting role, always disdaining bombast and contrived drama. A lovely, spare country ballad, "It's the Messiah," closes things out, and Wy's voice, set against a delicately fingerpicked acoustic guitar, is a thing of beauty in this pristine setting. As it happens, the album title is most appropriate. — David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024