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Alabama

American Christmas – 2017 (BMG)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Alabama

With its 15-song "American Christmas," Alabama covers nearly every nook and cranny in the holiday album spectrum. And it's just as good, as it is complete.

The song that hits first, and hits hardest, is "First Christmas Without Daddy." This loving remembrance for a deceased father asks sadly, "Who's gonna lead the family prayer?" As Christmas is as much about family gatherings, as it is about all the popular sights and sounds, Randy Owen both remembers his own father, and sends out a prayer to family's that may be missing a patriarch this season. It's so good, it belongs right up there with Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December."

Way on the opposite side of the emotional scale, Jeff Cook sings the hilarious "(I Wanna) Rock N Roll Guitar," which flies in the face of modern Christmas wishing, as it describes a young man asking for - not the latest electronic device - an electric guitar for Christmas. And God bless his rock & roll heart! May he get one and crank it up to 11.

Alabama also includes a few sincerely spiritual songs in this mix. "Greatest Gift" focuses on the reason for the season, Jesus, while "Remember Me" is like a Christmas day communion service, making sure Christ is not forgotten during all the holiday hubbub.

The album opens with "Ain't Santa Cool," a lighthearted, swinging little number that would have fit right in with the Rat Pack's repertoire, had they lived long enough to record it. It comes complete with a subtle backing horn section. Christmas hymns, "Away in A Manger" and "Silent Night" are each performed reverently, while the more secular "Jingle Bells" is given a wonderfully thumping country arrangement. Alabama's re-do of its own "Christmas In Dixie," is stunningly beautiful.

So much good music, from so many different angles, on Alabama's "American Christmas," makes it one most highly recommended holiday album.