I've listened to Christmas albums by a Soul luminary (Al Green), the King of Rock and Soul (Solomon Burke) doing Gospel, the greatest band ever groovin' away (Booker T. & the MGs), and am, as most folks, very familiar with all the traditional Yuletide jingles done by various artists since the dawn of Rock 'N Roll, but this one is the best, and by far the most accessible, of them all.
After hearing Yoakam perform a stupendous working of the great "I'll Be Home For Christmas" on television, I knew I had to get this album. Lee Thornburg's great horn arrangements (right up Wayne Jackson's and Andrew Love's [Stax's Memphis Horns] alley), and typically superb work from Skip Edwards (B-3 organ) and guitarist/producer Pete Anderson, and of course Yoakam's crooning, made this the new definitive version of the classic. This great and unforced Southern Soul feel was totally unique in 1997, and still is today. Nothing else on the album goes in this direction. But that's okay.
Opening and closing with two excellent original numbers, what Dwight Yoakam does with the eight time tested (or time wearied) standards is something I've never heard anyone else do. There just doesn't seem to be a throw away here to be found; all are extremely interesting. He explores several different styles of music, keeping the listener on his or her toes and anxious to find out what he'll do next. This is truly a showcase for one of the greatest instruments in music, the vocals of Dwight Yoakam.
From the fascinating "Away In a Manger" (so darn authentic, you'll think it was recorded pre-Hank Williams!) to the great rockin' remake of Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph", Dwight and these fantastic musicians turn out a classic collection that everyone, Country fan or not, should own.
Forget the fact that these are Christmas tunes, and that all but two are Yoakam originals. This is a stunning album. And though you may have heard this said before, trust me, you can play this good and loud in July and it's just as great as on Christmas morning.