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Bill Carpenter Presents An Uncloudy Christmas
Artist: Various Artists

Journalist/publicist Bill Carpenter's _Uncloudy Day_ was more or less complete as an encyclopedia covering African-American soul gospel, with some CCM and Southern gospel tossed in for good measure, when it was published earlier in 2006. Simultaneously with its publication, a companion CD compilation was issued (Carpenter was aiming for a box set but couldn't find any takers). Now comes An Uncloudy Christmas.

And like the book and CD preceding it, this collection offers a peculiar assortment. This time, however, it appears as if everything here was recorded specifically for the album in question.

Pookie Hudson and The Spaniels adapt their '50s doo-wop to not strictly seasonal, but mostly gospel-themed selections, either a cappella or with faux R&B arrangements recalling the cheesier synth sounds of early '90s traditional soul gospel male quartet records. Vocally, they find a middle ground straddling The Pilgrim Travellers and The Persuasions.

Longtime Carpenter publicity client Candi Staton gets a bit cutesy on one of her contributions. She later delves into the bluesier end of the Southern soul with which she made her name and revisited on her Spring '06 general market comeback album, His Hands. Ann McCrary splits the difference of Staton's moods on her one Uncloudy addition.

Bryan Wilson may not yet have topped his unjustly ignored teenage debut for Malaco Records in the '90s, but his album opener here delivers some on that early promise. Markus Nair remakes Wham!'s "A Lonely Christmas," seeking to reconcile electro-pop with the dreamy soul vibe Andrew Ridgely and George Michael were aiming to recreate on the original. Richard Hartley keeps it further in the church with the nearly as electronic "Sure Been Good To Me," if not exactly keeping the holiday theme proper.

Just as with the his book's first companion disc, Carpenter adds his own spoken word recordings. This time he provides two--one about Christ's birth and another wishing Christmas and New Year blessings--in acoustic guitar-strumming folk-pop style. I think his book has entries on Nicole C. Mullen and Tony Rich, so what the hey, right?

Right enough, but not for many and maybe not for long. Released in early December 2006, only 1,000 copies were pressed. But for one of the more oddly satisfying Yuletide collections of the year, Uncloudy Christmas is clearly in the running.

Jamie Lee Rake   December 29, 2006



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