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Various Artists

to: Kate - A Benefit for Kate's Sake – 2005 (Western Beat)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Various Artists

Here's the most unique, and best, Christmas album of the year. It's a collection of 15 songs by top alternative-country and roots- rock performers, produced by Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. The songs range from good to fantastic, and profits from the album go to a great cause - a potentially life-saving transplant for a Nashville three-year-old inflicted with a rare disease.

Bob Delevante has been sorely missed since the Delevantes' great albums in the late Nineties, so his "Half Bad in the Snow" is a welcome contribution, with brother Mike on electric guitar. Joe Ely adds an accordion-laced rendition of Bob Dylan' "Winterlude," and Raul Malo's soaring voice sounds great on "Pretty Paper." Jason & the Scorchers turn in the album's surprise highlight, a smoking, electrified version of "Oh! Holy Night" that completely reinvents this classic carol. Actor John Corbett ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") lends his gravelly voice to "Ain't No Trouble to Me." John Prine, Steve Earle, and Jim Lauderdale are just a few of the other excellent artists featured here.

If you're going to get one Christmas album this year, make it this one. (Box 128105, Nashville, TN 37212, 615-248-5026, E-Mail: billy@westernbeat.com )