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Various Artists

O Christmas Tree – 2002 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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The third of this year's blue, blue(grass) Christmas compilations comes from Rounder Records, a company that has been recording bluegrass music for over 30, but hasn't released a Christmas album until now. Rhonda Vincent opens the album with a joyful, fiddle-and-banjo version of "Christmas Time's a Comin'" and returns later on for an upbeat version of "O Christmas Tree." A very spare version of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is the best track as Suzanne Cox graces the song with her sweet, Allison Krauss-like voice.

Bill Keith assembled an all-star cast of bluegrass players for his largely instrumental version of "Auld Lang Syne." And although "Blue Christmas" may not seem like a bluegrass song, Open Road does a good job converting it. Ron Stewart's "Silver Bells" and the Shankman Twins' two contributions are less successful, but overall, this album delights far more than it disappoints.