various artists,
An East Coast Christmas
(Quality, 1999)

The Maritimes know music. And they know Christmas, too. And you can know it the way they do by listening to them share it on An East Coast Christmas. A Who's Who of East Coast musicians provide the music for an album that's sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

The overriding theme here is memories of home, family and music. You'll hear about it from Evans & Doherty on "Christmas Memories," John Gracie on "Cape Breton Christmas Morn," Celtic Connection on "Children's Winter" and Terry Kelly on "Old Tyme Christmas Song." Rose Vaughan adds a touch of jazz to the standard "Home is Where the Heart Is."

Great Big Sea describe the "Seven Joys of Mary" with their signature vocal style, capping things off with a lively jam. Laura Smith takes a bawdy turn with an unexpected Christmas visitor in "The Christmas Goose." Rita and Mary Rankin combine gorgeous vocals for a lush Christmas atmosphere in "In Night's Deep Silence." And Bruce Guthro tells a touching story of a tree and a generous spirit in "The Boy from the Woods."

McGinty does a lovely reinterpretation of "Mary's Boy Child," and Modabo provides a stirring arrangement of "Christmas is the Time."

There are some country music influences here and there, like Breton's "Another Christmas Song," Maxine MacLeod's "Our Christmas Ways" and Jimmy Flynn's fun, twangy "Santa's Hooked on Country Music."

There are instrumentals, too. Dave MacIsaac plays a festive guitar medley in "The Christmas Tree March/Christmas Carousing." And Richard Wood begins with a stately rendition of "O Christmas Tree" before kicking into his usual frenetic style of fiddling.

There's not a bad track on the album. If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, this is a great way to do it.

[ by Tom Knapp ]