Kathy Mattea's first Christmas album, 1993's "Good News," was an instant classic, winning a Grammy award and providing material for an annual Christmas tour.
This album continues where that one left off, focusing on songs about the spiritual side of Christmas. You won't hear Mattea singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," for instance, but her quiet, spare version of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" is a knockout. The opening track, "Christmas Collage," is perhaps the best, blending four traditional songs including gorgeous round singing on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." "There's Still My Joy" is a simple piano ballad with a beautiful lyric of the rejuvenating power of Christmas. The arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard on High" is astoundingly creative, opening quietly with just an acoustic guitar, building to spirited jazz and then retreating to just a bongo backing Mattea and a backup chorus.
Although Mattea's years in the country radio limelight have long passed, music fans should rejoice that she is still blessing us with her music, her unique blend of acoustic influences and her angelic voice.