Various Artists - An Americana Christmas
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An Americana Christmas (New West, 2014)

Various Artists

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

This various artist holiday album kills the proverbial two birds with one stone as it provides musical holiday cheer along with a fairly extensive overview of what's best about the music termed 'Americana.'

The collection includes selections from The Band, which was Americana before the term was cool, with "Christmas Must Be Tonight," and their former famous collaborator Bob Dylan, who sings the peppy, accordion-driven "Must Be Santa." Dylan's song comes from his much-panned "Christmas in the Heart." However, in this small dosage, it's actually fairly fun. Other historic figures include Johnny Cash doing "The Gifts They Gave," John Prine singing - in his most wistful manner - "Everything Is Cool," and the always-appropriate-Christmas-gift in Emmylou Harris, who sings a lovely "The First Noel."

Some of the best tracks, however, come from relatively lesser known artists. For example, Ronnie Fauss begins "Everybody Deserves a Merry Christmas" with the line, "Well it's Christmas in the jailhouse again." (Remember when country songs always seemed to have that obligatory reference to jail/prison?) Robert Ellis also does an extremely good job with Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper," infusing it with just enough sadness to make the gifts under the tree look tear-soaked. Lastly, Nikki Lane - this year's Americana 'it girl' - gives us an extremely pretty "FaLaLaLaLove Ya."

"An Americana Christmas" is not just a worthy holiday celebration platter, but also fantastic supporting evidence for the validity and utter goodness of Americana music, both old and new.




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