Alan Jackson's second Christmas album is a major departure from 1993's unabashedly country "Honky Tonk Christmas" and indeed, from his style in general. This time around, he's turned away from songs like "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" and instead recorded a much more traditional Christmas album, with 10 standards and only 1 Jackson original, performed with an orchestra and choir.
"Away in a Manger" is a delight - the arrangement builds from a simple piano backing Jackson to a grandiose orchestral crescendo. The Jackson-penned title track is also a highlight, with a beautiful melody and simple, joyful lyrics. Jackson's come a long way from "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," when all he wanted was "to pick this guitar and sing." Now he sings in front of a full orchestra, and the results are good, although they don't quite measure up to the near perfection of "Honky Tonk Christmas."