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Toby Keith

Classic Christmas – 2007 (ShowDog Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Toby Keith

Recording Christmas music is trickier than it seems, especially with opinions so divided over the holiday's deeper meaning. Many believe it to be exclusively spiritual and solely focused on Jesus' birth, whereas others just want to have a jolly time. Although this chasm makes it extremely difficult to be all things to all people, Toby Keith has smartly recorded 2 distinct CDs of 20 songs of well-known seasonal songs: One that extols December's winter wonderland, the other filled with holiday hymns.

And just as Keith has found a simple solution that satisfies two opposing philosophical factions, he's also applied this simple-is-better approach to the recording process. Rather than pull out al the stops for an overblown, overly orchestrated Christmas spectacular, he mostly colors these tracks with minimal tones. His moderation is especially effective during "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" where Dobro, fiddle, and honky-tonk piano give this swinging tune a homespun feel. Surprisingly, Keith's take on the second disc's churchier material is also some of this set's most lively material. For example, Keith is truly impassioned during the declaratory "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Keith, well-known for his many times argumentative political views, behaved like one of the three wise men this time: He left his strong opinions outside the studio door.