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Carols By Candlelight offers simplicity

California Center for the Arts, Escondido, Cal., Dec. 7, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

ESCONDIDO, CA - Carols By Candlelight, a charity event to raise money for area children, has become a San Diego tradition each Christmas season, and this year's show was packed with country talent-in addition to headliner Kenny Loggins.

In a set limited to just four songs, Loggins sang all original compositions. These ranged from the gentle opener "Return to Pooh Corner," to the rockabilly lite of "Footloose." In between, he found room for the old and soulful "Celebrate Me Home" and "Angels in the Snow," inspired by watching his children making snow angels.

Loggins is an old friend of organizers Wayne Nelson and Steve Vaus (aka The Beat Boys, who also performed two sets) and appeared to be fully enjoying this informal holiday gathering.

Joe Diffie was the lone male country singer on the bill, but he nevertheless made a distinctly good impression with his ballad "In Another World" and silly Christmas celebration with "Leroy, The Redneck Reindeer." Flanked by two other acoustic guitarists/vocalists, he shined with his wonderfully traditional singing.

Carolyn Dawn Johnson chose the lullaby "Away in a Manger" as one of her carol selections, and also sang her ode to romantic confusion, "Complicated."

Kim Carnes made the best of her limited vocal range with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and the gospel-y "Go Where I Send Thee."

Tammy Cochran proved she is one of country music's best natural singers with her renditions of "The Christmas Song" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Her singing of "Angels In Waiting" was appropriate, since Christmas time and kids are eternally inseparable.

Before evening's end, Carnes, Johnson and Cochran came together to sing "Winter Wonderland," before Loggins and Diffie partnered-up on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

As they do every year, the artists and audience gathered outside in the courtyard with candles to sing "Silent Night" before heading home. This group sing-a-long outdoors, along with the mostly acoustic performances of the show that preceded it inside, exemplified the kind of beautiful simplicity we all long for at Christmas time.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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