November 22, 2008

Sheryl Crow Comes Home For Christmas

In past years, Sheryl Crow has contributed select performances to various holiday music compilations, most notably to the Special Olympics benefit series, A Very Special Christmas. This year, she has released her first full-length holiday album, Home For Christmas, which is available exclusively from Hallmark.

Covering nine yuletide standards as well as one original song, Crow is at turns playful and poignant, summoning a warmhearted, musically eclectic set.

Some songs accentuate a thick blanket of brass, encouraging Crow to deliver particularly spirited and soulful performances. She spruces up “Blue Christmas” a new recording, not her 1997 rendition with a chugging arrangement highlighted by Booker T. Jones’ agile organ flourishes. On the spiritual, “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” Crow leads a rich and stirring recital enlivened by a gospel choir. As well, she jazzes up “White Christmas” as bassist David Hayes anchors a swinging rhythm; and she works up a loose and boisterous version of “Merry Christmas Baby” that revels in mischievous delight.

Other songs embrace more of a majestic yet unassuming resonance, drawing out melodic subtleties that envelop Crow’s sinuous voice. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is interpreted with grace and sincerity, the singer inflecting a tinge of melancholy amid a veil of strings. Similarly, “The Bells of St. Mary” assumes a sort of resplendence as Crow enriches its deft orchestration with, arguably, her finest vocal on the album.

With her self-penned offering, “There Is A Star That Shines Tonight,” Crow takes to the piano in an earnest prayer for world peace while, on the traditional, “All Through The Night,” she conveys reassurance, intoning its lyrics like a lullaby.

On the whole, Home For Christmas not only makes for an engaging complement to Sheryl Crow’s catalog, but would be a worthy addition to any holiday music collection as well.