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Clay Walker

Christmas – 2002 (Warner)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Clay Walker

Clay Walker fans expecting fiddle-and-steel arrangements of traditional Christmas songs may be disappointed. Walker fans willing to keep an open mind (and ear), on the other hand, may be pleasantly surprised. Sure, we get a fiddle solo on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," but it's followed by a saxophone solo. The best song, surprisingly, is "Go Tell It on the Mountain," replete with organ and hallelujah choir. Walker really digs into the vocal and turns in a standout performance.

On much of the album, though, Walker is backed by a full orchestra and chorus, beautifully arranged and conducted by Bergen White, who has worked with everyone from Elvis to Garth Brooks. And frankly, Walker's thin voice is often overwhelmed. He has a hard time reaching the upper notes with any kind of authority on "I'll Be Home for Christmas," for instance, and his voice at times seems lost in the depth of the orchestral arrangement. Although he doesn't always succeed here, the highlights are gratifying, and Walker should be applauded for taking a risk.