Deep down we know the holidays aren’t, and shouldn’t be, about buying stuff. We do it anyway, of course, but in the end it doesn’t contribute much to the experience other than a lingering sense of buyer’s remorse and, on average, about ten pounds, after all the glitter’s settled.
Such thoughts came to mind considering Rhonda Vincent’s new Christmas album, which on merit of style and delivery is quality stuff. The 12-song album, like the 12-song Christmas album that preceded it, 2006’s Beautiful Star: The Christmas Collection, is wonderfully pleasant, gather-everyone-around-the-tree-and-grab-a-gift music. In her bright and high-spirited bluegrass style, Vincent again delivers a package of traditional Christmas songs, hymns, and a handful of originals.
The fact is is that Vincent’s first holiday album was perfectly fine. It still works. Nothing was broken that needed fixing, especially “Christmas Time at Home,” the Vincent-penned tune that appears on both. On Christmas Time there is the album’s showpiece, a playful, star-studded version of “12 Days of Christmas,” with Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Pam Tillis (among others), but elsewhere the templated formula, including “Jingle Bells,” “Away in a Manger,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and more runs a little rote for a solid, stand-alone sequel.
Vincent certainly isn’t the first artist to take such a tried-and-true tack (cue any one of Andy Williams’ Christmas specials), but as we approach 2016, what would be far more interesting, especially for those like Vincent who are compelled to produce more than one holiday album, is an item that recasts the Santa-shaped cookie cutter of what came before. What about a collection of all original music, or songs that incorporate a diverse picture of country and bluegrass fans during the holidays, not just the Christian ones? (Though the genres are quite different, a good point of reference is Sharon Jones’ funky new holiday album, It’s a Holiday Soul Party, a festive release with secular and Hannukah-themed tunes, as well as R&B-fueled reinvented classics.)
As the consumer machine bears down in these weeks approaching Christmas, it’s important to filter out the season’s superfluous fluff. Die-hard Rhonda Vincent fans will no doubt cherish this installment, but the rest of us should pass and strive to keep in mind this time of year what we always seem to forget: less is more.