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Reba McEntire

My Kind of Christmas – 2016 (Cracker Barrel)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Reba McEntire

Upon initial listens, Reba's new Christmas album comes off a little overwhelming. Upon closer inspection, though, it's revealed to be much better. This is because the album is so darn simple. These songs feature only Reba (listed in the credits as the 'girl singer') and a piano accompaniment. Such stripped-down arrangements offer a stark contrast to many of Reba's usual ornately produced non-holiday albums.

First and foremost, these basic recordings highlight Reba's fantastic singing voice. Even with many instruments in the mix, Reba always rises above. But here, that vocal instrument is right there in the spotlight the whole time. A lesser singer would not have pulled this off. It's doubtful many other mainstream country artists even have the guts to put out such a truly unplugged album - especially during the highly commercial Christmas music season. Reba's special, though.

McEntire is simply peppy during "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" while singing over Catherine Marx's hot-stepping piano work. Reba's always at her best, though, with the sadder songs and "Hard Candy Christmas," with its extreme melancholy, was simply made for the singer.

The majority of these songs are of the secular stripe, with only "O Holy Night," "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night" representing the rare spiritual moments. Although these holy instances are few, Reba decidedly nails "O Holy Night," which she sings sincerely and expressively and proves she could have easily made a churchier album.

"My Kind of Christmas" may not come in shiny packaging, but this gift is nevertheless of the very highest quality.