december 2011

Reba McEntire
MCA Nashville
Released: 2003

A holiday entry in MCA's 20th Century Masters series, The Christmas Collection spotlights a dozen cuts from Reba McEntire's Yuletide catalog, with a good balance between new songs from Nashville pros and familiar seasonal favorites. Among the former, "The Season of Giving" stands out, as it allows McEntire a chance to stretch her vocal cords to their keening upper range in delivering a message of selflessness and generosity set to a loping traditional country arrangement defined by its sweet fiddle lines, bright acoustic guitar fills and thumping bass and bass drum nexus. "'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again," penned by Randy Goodrum and John Barlow Jarvis, is a surging, countrified benediction wishing Godspeed and good tidings for the year ahead, and McEntire gives it a sincere reading free of any cloying sentimentality.

For a change of pace on an old favorite, check out the reconfigured version of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)" in its Charles Brown-influenced blues ballad style, with McEntire's sly phrasing treading that thin line between down-and-dirty blues and gospel fervor. "Up On the Housetop" charges ahead at breakneck speed, a rock 'n' roll holiday hoedown complete with a searing electric guitar solo mirrored by a frenetic fiddle run hard on its tail; conversely, hewing to tradition, McEntire sensibly offers a stately reading of "O Holy Night" made doubly effective when her expressive vocal is framed only by a delicately fingerpicked acoustic guitar ahead of a band and an angelic female chorus chiming in. A good overview this, and an impressive showcase of Reba using her great stylistic gift to find interesting new routes to some familiar locations. — David McGee

The Best of Reba: The Christmas Collection is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, 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