It’s Christmas Time
2017 - Mountain Home Music. It’s pure elegance as the members of Balsam Range give us the gift of six Christmas songs in this new Holiday album. The elegance is found in the arrangement between Balsam Range’s distinctive Bluegrass sound mixed with a selection of artistic musicians from the Nashville Recording Orchestra. One would think that mixing a Bluegrass band with an orchestra may turn out to be a disaster. Nonetheless, it is pure genius as each of the songs are performed in a Bluegrass mentality with a very precise addition of the strings from the orchestra. This blend of two different genres of music creates an album that soothes the soul while it brings a sense of relaxation to this hectic season. Although the album features six covers, Balsam Range gives us a new sophisticated feel to these well known songs. The album opens with “Christmas Lullaby,” that was written and originally recorded by Doc Watson in 1990. Personally, I would love to hear this song without the vocals as the melody is pure hypnotic. The band continues with their rendition of “The First Noel.” Admitting that this new rendition is performed quite beautifully, it almost sounds as if the tempo is set more rapid than it should be. The album continues with the ever popular song “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” The group does a wonderful job in keeping with the original release that was recorded by Brenda Lee, albeit it is performed in a slight Bluegrass feel. It is the addition of the saxophone that makes it quite like the original version. Another classic song on this album is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” I believe that this is the song that the band spent the most time in creating and recording. The blend of the bluegrass instruments and the strings from the orchestra is flawless and professional. The album closes with a beautiful instrumental rendition of “Jingle Bells.” This is perhaps the best version of this classic song that we have ever heard. Nonetheless it is their cover of Ralph Stanley’s 1993 song “I’m Going Home, It’s Christmas Time,” that brings this entire album together. Ralph created a beautiful song about coming together as a family in this charming song. If this were not a cover we would have pulled it to nominate it for the Spirit Award’s Spirit of Christmas Award. I wish that this band would have taken the time to write their own new Christmas carols as I feel that they have the creativity and talent to do so. In the end, this album will bring you much joy this Christmas season. $$$$
(This review was printed in the November / December 2017 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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