Entertainment Weekly (12/10/99, p.108) - "...confidently mixes standards and new material while staying true to twangy form....just the ticket for blubbering in your 'nog." - Rating: B
Personnel: George Strait (vocals); Russel Mauldin (arranger); Steve Gibson (acoustic guitar); Dean Parks (electric guitar); Paul Franklin (steel guitar); Larry Franklin (fiddle); Nashville String Machine (strings); Steve Nathan (piano, Hammond B-3 organ, keyboards); Jim Cox (piano, keyboards); Glenn Worf (bass); Eddie Bayers (drums); Eric Darken (percussion); Lisa Cochran, Travis Cottrel, Tim Davis, Stephanie Hall, Jon Mark Ivey, Marabeth Jordon, Lisa Silver, Dennis Wilson, Wes Hightower, Liana Manis (background vocals).
Principally recorded at Ocean Way Studios, Nashville, Tennessee.
Here's one sign a country artist has been around a while: he's on his second Christmas album. MERRY CHRISTMAS WHEREVER YOU ARE, George Strait's first Christmas collection in more than a decade, finds the elder statesman of modern country revisiting holiday favorites and introducing some brand new songs. Though the favorites are comforting and familiar, the new songs are what really make this collection, especially "Noel Leon," a quirky, spoken-word tale of goodwill toward a neighbor; and the title track, a song that replaces Christmas cheer with Christmas heartache.
But the true thrill of the album is hearing Strait's interpretations of the classics. He croons his way through the Sinatra-flavored arrangements of chesnuts like "Let It Snow" and "The Christmas Song," and sounds like he's having a ball on "Jingle Bell Rock" and the goofy "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)." MERRY CHRISTMAS WHEREVER YOU ARE isn't meant to make any great artistic statement: it's just George, effortlessly breezing his way through some nice Christmas tunes. But add a roaring fire and some eggnog, and what more do you need on a cold winter night?
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