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to: Kate - a benefit for Kate's sake
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Western Beat Records
Time: 15 tracks/50:33 min. 
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Many a Christmas album has included these famous words from Mel Torme and Robert Wells.  to: Kate - a benefit for Kate's sake starts with this song, but with a twist not often heard in renditions of this song.  Instead of being crooned in a classic style, it is delivered with straight-up Country style vocals and instrumentation.  This introduces you to the style that dominates this compilation.  If you like your music on the twangy side of the Americana movement, this is the holiday CD for you.

The disc is being presented for Kate Kirk, a 3 year old facing a rare disease and expensive surgery.  The profits from this album, produced by the E-Street Band's Garry Talent, will go to the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA).  More information about Kate can be found by visiting the site linked above. 

The disc, overall, is fairly scattershot in its quality and style.  Some songs (such as "Gift Wrapped Boy" by the Big Happy) are on the pop side of country, while many others are showing more of their roots.  Buddy and Julie Miller present "Away In a Manger" drenched in their distinctive vocals.  This song had only been previous heard on the rare Noel compilation.  Several artists present distinctive originals, highlighted by Bob Delevante's "Half Bad in the Snow."

Among the other highlights is Raul Malo presenting the best "Pretty Paper" this side of Willy Nelson.  Instead of just a copy, he gives it a little bit of Tex-Mex Swing.  Joe Ely also interprets Bob Dylan's "Winterlude" with his own distinctive style.  Perhaps the highlight of the disc is a duet by Allison Moorer and Steve Earle on his own composition, "Nothing But a Child."  Her sweet and his sour mix together just right on a song led along by simple instrumentation and lovely harmonies.

Unfortunately, not all of the tracks are worth multiple listens.  It benefits a great cause, but the CD will really only be enjoyed by those listeners who love their Christmas music overloaded with lots of strum and twang.

By Jonathan Nelson 



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