Personnel: Jim Hoke (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Sam Levine (baritone saxophone); Steve Herrmann, Steve Patrick (trumpet); Roy Agee (trombone).
Audio Mixer: Chris Lord-Alge.
Editor: Lars Fox.
Photographer: Marc Baptiste.
Sporting nearly identical cover art to Playing with Fire -- the sophomore solo set that appeared a few months earlier in 2016 -- To Celebrate Christmas actually contains more verve than its secular counterpart. Freed from the need of having a hit, Jennifer Nettles plays around, letting "Go Tell It on the Mountain" groove to a hard rock riff and turning "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" into a hot dance shuffle that could've sounded at home during prohibition. Nettles still will play it earnest -- "Circle of Love" is as straight as it gets -- and the record slides into a slow, deliberate march in its back half, heavy on ballads, all of which puts To Celebrate Christmas into the realm of immaculately crafted fireplace music that never quite captures the imagination. That's too bad because early on, To Celebrate Christmas has some attitude -- enough to suggest the album wouldn't be conventional -- but eventually, Nettles finds her own cozy comfort zone, a place that is nothing more than pleasant. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine