The McKrells,
Merry Christmas
(Draguin, 1999)

The McKrells take their mix of Irish and bluegrass styles and stir it up with a nice array of holiday cheer to make Merry Christmas, their excellent Yule CD.

The album is dominated by traditional songs newly imagined: "The Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Jingle Bells," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." These aren't canned regurgitations of familiar material, however -- the band's distinctive personality shines through in both their arrangements and presentation, with folksy vocals, fiddle, banjo and other traditional instruments adding a McKrells' flair to the proceedings.

There's also a fun, original song, "Daddy It's Snowing Out Today," and an original tune, "Cead Caloige Sneachta," to get things going. But perhaps the nicest touch here are the spoken tracks, oral presentations of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and excerpts from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and the the Gospel of Luke.

The McKrells are Kevin McKrell (vocals), Chris Leske (banjo, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Craig Vance (flatpick guitar, vocals), Brian Melick (percussion, vocals), John Kribs (bass, vocals, guitar) and Sara Milanovich (fiddle, flute, vocals). The album was recorded in Kribs' Adirondack home and attempts to capture "the real sense of family and the honest joy of music and performance." It succeeds, and in some tracks captures the band's relaxed approach especially well. This is a holiday recording that anyone can enjoy.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 21 December 2002

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