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Various Artists

Pinecastle Christmas Gatherin' – 2003 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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Look out - it's yet another bluegrass Christmas compilation! Pinecastle's has 18 songs by 16 different artists - a few traditional carols and many more less familiar songs. Overall, it's a mixed bag.

Michelle Nixon's sweet voice is perfectly suited to the longing "When It's Christmas in Virginia." Ross Nickerson and others turn in a first-rate, high-speed instrumental performance of "O Come All Ye Faithful." The Special Consensus are solid on "Go Tell It on the Mountain."

Other songs, like Larry Stephenson's "Country Christmas" and The Village Singers' "A Carpenter, A Mother, and a King," are less successful. "Snoopy's Christmas" is an infuriatingly cloying story of a World War I air battle between Snoopy and the Red Baron that ends with them wishing each other "Merry Christmas." And "Christmas Waltz," from Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys, is too mournful-sounding for all but the most dedicated bluegrass fan.

Hard-core bluegrass fans may decide there are enough high points out of the 18 tracks here to justify the purchase, but others can steer clear.