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Various Artists

A Texas Hill Country Christmas – 2005 (The Lodge Recording Studio)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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This is a new compilation CD of 14 relatively unknown singers from the Texas Hill Country - that fertile field of musical talent generally west of San Antonio and Austin, Texas. The songs are mostly acoustic, mostly originals (only 2 standards out of the 14 tracks) and mostly quite good.

Thomas Michael Riley leads off with his "Christmas in the Hill Country," which cleverly weaves together several traditional carols, backed by pretty acoustic guitar and harmonica. Walt Wilkins' "There Were Angels" is a pretty retelling of the story of Jesus' birth. Marble Falls, Texas, high-school student Jessa Gray turns in a stunning vocal performance on "Because You Are," backed by a piano and orchestra arrangement. Kevin Higgins wrote and sings the wonderful and simply titled "A Christmas Song." The nostalgic, sometimes humorous recollections of the singer's Christmas family traditions are sure to bring a smile to the face of any listener with a soft spot for days gone by.

This strong collection of performances is an excellent introduction to some little-known Texas artists that you might not otherwise hear, and proceeds go to benefit Candlelight Ranch, a retreat near Austin for children with special needs. A worthwhile album for a worthwhile cause.