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The Gathering

The Gathering – 2011 (Sycamore Road)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by The Gathering

The Gathering is the combined talents of Laurelyn Dossett (of Polecat Creek), Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), Mike Compton (John Hartford Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes), Joe Newberry and Jason Sypher. Bluegrass may be the base style of this holiday music collection, but gospel elements also run thick and strong throughout the CD.

For example, Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn is performed with churchy gusto. However, Diamonds in the Pines, with its plentiful fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar, is a pretty and upbeat bluegrass workout. The Bill Monroe instrumental, Old Ebenezer Scrooge is also pretty hot. The playing and singing is topnotch throughout. Historically, Nashville consistently puts out music billed as down-home sounds, which are many times actually slick studio productions. However, these songs - most of which not already overdone - have the feel of a loose, yet professional, musical get-together.

This is no uppity Christmas ball, with classy looking folks dressed to the nines. Instead, it's a jeans and flannel shirt collective, with more skill than fashion sense that has given us a sweetly endearing perspective on the season. It doesn't just come from the country; it is country, and is as down-home as music comes.