It's an instance of truth in advertising that Joe Nichols calls his new holiday album "A Traditional Christmas." Traditions are mostly wonderful things. Few would enjoy Christmas, for example, if it was celebrated completely differently every year. However, Nichols' new traditional album is a little too faithful to these familiar Christmas songs. It's as though he's being so careful, he won't open presents on Christmas morning for fear that he might mess up the wrapping paper. But making a wrapping paper mess is all part of the Christmas morning fun!
Similarly, one of the joys of putting on a new Christmas album is hearing how an artist takes well known seasonal songs, and puts them back together with his/her individualized fingerprints. "A Traditional Christmas" is so by-the-numbers, it's - dare we say it? - just plain dull. A big part of the problem is that Nichols sounds bored singing these songs. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! includes three exclamation marks for good reason; it should be a celebration of a white Christmas. In Nichols' hands, though, the singer sounds more like a sleepwalking weatherman. To make matters worse, on a song where Nichols should really be behaving sadly, I'll Be Home For Christmas, he sounds positively jolly performing a tune that swings jazz style, complete with a peppy guitar solo. There's nothing wrong with jazzing up a Christmas tune, but this is simply an inappropriate choice for such a mood-changing musical makeover.
Nichols is a fantastic singer, with a better-than-average vocal instrument. Sadly, it's wasted like unwanted fruitcake here.
(This is a digital reissue of the 2004 disc with one new song, Old Toy Songs.>)