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Home Free

Full of Cheer – 2014 (Columbia)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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A cappella country act Home Free has spent the past several years making a name for itself thanks most notably for winning The Sing-Off in 2013, moving from being an all-purpose a cappella group to covering classic and contemporary country songs with their signature soulful harmonies and smooth tones. Now, for the third time in the group's career, the vocal group is setting it's sights on the wonders of Christmas with "Full of Cheer," which combines plenty of cheer alongside warm, holiday traditions.

The "cheer" is evident from the start as the band kicks things off on the 10-song CD with a playful take on the country Christmas favorite "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," ad-libbing a few fun moments throughout. "Hairy Christmas," a cover from The Robertson's Christmas record last year keeps the entertainment moving with the easy-going arrangement, but it's the original title track that really shines with corn pone charm, turning a break up into the best Christmas gift ever.

The focus turns to seasonal standards, both secular and sacred. "White Christmas" is given a gentle, loping vibe, the group inventively mimicking harmonica flows and everything while "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is rendered faithfully and showcases the incredible harmonies the group is really capable of. And with "Baby, It's Cold Outside" the group welcomes guest vocals from Kira Isabella for a great take on the romantic holiday jam.

Country vibes are heard on "O Holy Night," bits of twang working their way into the mix alongside their soaring vocal melodies as "Angels We Have Heard On High" presses those melodies forward, the group showing some real vocal prowess with a layered arrangement that stands strong. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" showcases further skill, the vocal abilities really shining in their diversity, creating a rich soundscape with just their voices while closer "Silent Night," buoyed by a guest violin solo from Taylor Davis, ends things on a cozy note.

From playful holiday fun to rich Christmas traditions, "Full of Cheer" will be a welcome addition to many a Christmas playlist, particularly for those looking for something just a little bit different.