A decade after his debut hit, "Life's a Dance," John Michael Montgomery releases his first Christmas album, which is also his first co-producing effort. The 10-song disc contains 7 holiday classics and 3 new tunes. Montgomery does well with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and the instrumental solos, from guitar to fiddle to steel guitar, are solid.
On the other hand, Montgomery's voice and phrasing aren't a good fit for the big-band arrangement of "Winter Wonderland." He sounds like he's sleepwalking through "White Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and his vanilla voice doesn't have the depth or nuance to it to hold a listener's attention through six-plus minutes of "O Holy Night." But then the disc closes with the only song that Montgomery wrote himself, "A Daddy's Prayer / Jesus Loves Me," where Montgomery's understated performance of his own simple, pleading lyric is compelling. Overall, it's an uneven effort. Dedicated John Michael fans will appreciate this one, but for everyone else, plenty of better country Christmas CDs are out there.