Alison Brown

Evergreen – 2008 (Compass)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Alison Brown

Alison Brown has been described as a progressive bluegrass banjoist, so nobody should really be surprised by the eclectic feel of her holiday collaboration with Joe Craven. But unlike Bela Fleck, who often gets wonderfully weird with his unique musical interpretations, Brown mainly sticks with standard - albeit unexpected - colorings. For instance, Craven's violin brings a touch of Stephane Grappelli to Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, whereas Here Comes Santa Claus is so slow and jazzy, one wonders if St. Nick might have stopped off at the bar for a few quick ones just prior to his annual package delivery ride. Jazz players truly love Peanuts music, which is probably why two of its songs (Skating and Christmas Time Is Here) can be found here.

It would be a lie, by the way, to call this music bluegrass. Granted, it features much of bluegrass' primary instrumentation. But one can hardly picture Bill Monroe swinging the way Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow swings. While not strictly bluegrass, "Evergreen" nevertheless offers an inventively jazzy and acoustic approach to a few Christmas favorites.