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Joe Nichols

A Traditional Christmas – 2004 (Universal South)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Joe Nichols

Joe Nichols had a breakthrough year in 2003, touring with Alan Jackson and riding his hit "The Impossible" to three Grammy nominations. So now it's time for the Christmas album. His web site describes this album as "tasteful and traditional," and that's an accurate description. There's nothing offensive about this album - the production is understated and mostly acoustic, and Nichols' voice is pleasing. The style works well on quiet songs like "Away in a Manager" and "Silent Night."

Other songs come up short, though - for example, "Winter Wonderland" for lack of energy and merriment and "O Holy Night" for lack of majesty. Perhaps the most interesting aspect are the little production flairs of Brent Rowan, who has chosen to include several unexpected instruments here, including a long harmonica solo on "White Christmas," clarinet on "Let It Snow" and tin whistle on "Silent Night."

That this album is tasteful is both the best and worst thing that can be said about it. On its own, it doesn't make very interesting listening, but it would make fine background music for sitting next to a warm fire and sipping hot chocolate on a cold winter night.