Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Album Review: Appalachian Christmas

Click to sample and buy the album, now 20% OFF until 11/15/11

Mark O’Connor is best known as the outstanding violinist who partnered with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer on the megahit Appalachia Waltz and Heartland, An Appalachian Anthology albums. O’Connor continues with the Appalachian theme on his new Christmas album, An Appalachian Christmas.

O’Connor is featured on the violin (on Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” he also plays guitar, mandolin, mandola, bass, banjo and percussion) and is joined by a star studded group of guest artists, including Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Sharon Isbin. O’Connor is equally at home in the world of bluegrass, country swing and jazz, and his guests from those genres are equally top-shelf with Chris Thile, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and Jane Monheit joining the festivities.

There’s so much to like here. Renée Fleming sings a beautifully rootsy “Amazing Grace,” colored by some terrific country fiddling by O’Connor. O’Connor and his Appalachia alums Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer sit in with country-pop singer Alison Krauss on Meyer’s gorgeous arrangement of Stephen Foster’s “Slumber My Darling.” Krauss’s sweet, pure voice is beautifully supported by the silky, smooth sound of Ma, O’Connor and Meyer and it’s one of the album’s high points. As fans of the Goat Rodeo Sessions know, Chris Thile is a mandolin poet. Thile joins O’Connor and guitarist Byron House on O’Connor’s “One Winter’s Night” and it’s like time stands still as a holiday classic is born. If you are a fan of the late John Fahey’s Christmas albums you’ll appreciate the sensitivity and subtle beauty of the performance.

An Appalachian Christmas is sentimental, bluesy, boisterous and impossible to pigeonhole. Much can be said for O’Connor too. This is a marvelous and offbeat holiday treat of an album.

Click to sample and buy the album, now 20% OFF until 11/15/11

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