Randy Travis is to be commended for the fine balancing act he accomplishes here. He keeps the mood light and festive with "Let It Snow," which has a bit of a Willie Nelson feel to it due to Pat Bergeson's harmonica, and then skips playfully through "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays." Yet, he switches gears easily for the quiet "Away in a Manger."
Travis is an outspoken Christian, which is why the relatively unknown "Labor Of Love" spiritual sounds comfortable in his hands. Travis also adds his own modern Christmas hymn to this set with "Our King." But whether old or new, Travis's flexibly expressive voice gives character to everything he touches. Kyle Lehning, Travis's longtime producer, surrounds him with enough color to keep your attention, yet without ever blinding you. For example, the mandolin on "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is just right. Similarly, the pedal steel and female backing vocals of "Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down (At Christmas Time)" are ingredients pointing back to a master chef.
A Christmas album of all new material is a hard sell, whereas too many old standards can be a bore. But this is the perfect party mix.