One of this year's surprisingly pleasurable Christmas CDs comes from Paul Brandt. Usually a purveyor of standard New Country fare, Brandt strips his sound down here and delivers a solid, sometimes beautiful album, first released in his native Canada last year.
The disc opens with "The Little Drummer Boy," backed only by a single drum for the first minute. The arrangement gradually builds to include an acoustic guitar, fiddle and steel guitar, and Brandt's voice accurately reflects the song's joy and excitement.. "A Star Is Born" is a well-written song that reminds the listener to remember the true meaning of Christmas. The best is "What Child Is This," which receives a gorgeous bluegrassy treatment, complete with fiddle and mandolin. Brandt veers closer to New Country on the uptempo songs, particularly "Six Tons of Toys," an unnecessary rework of "Six Days on the Road" and "Run Run Rudolph," which is just plain annoying. Brandt has a good voice, although he sometimes tries to do too much with it. All in all, this is a fine album and surprisingly country.