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Dan Crary

Holiday Guitar – 1997 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Dan Crary

This album is quite simply the best instrumental Christmas album in years. Dan Crary has been considered one of the top guitarists in bluegrass for decades, and on the 14 songs here he shows time and again why.

"Carol of the Bells" opens the album with a bang - the richly textured arrangement and Crary's incredible picking redefine the boundaries of what can be done with a single guitar. A medley of "God Rest Ye Merrie, Gentlemen" and "Joy to the World" is like Chet Atkins after a gallon of espresso - the picking is so furious and intense that you can't help taking a deep breath as the song slows down in its final few seconds.

The song selection is outstanding - Crary records many Christmas classics, but also includes such seldom-heard gems as "Masters in This Hall," "The Coventry Carol," and "Patapan." And who would dare record "The Little Drummer Boy" without drums? Crary does, splendidly. This is one of the must-have Christmas albums of the year.