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A Very Rosie Christmas! 
Artist: Rosie Thomas 
Label: Sing-a-long Records 

Finding a decent Christmas album is harder than building a snowman in the summer.  Most of them are sappy – and it doesn’t help that radio stations blare the stuff before Thanksgiving now.  Those of us who haven’t totally given up on the Christmas album wade through all manner of sugarcoated sweetness each year, sweetness no more healthy than eating a box of candy canes in one sitting.
So when a truly great Christmas album rolls around, it’s note worthy.  Last year, it was Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels.  In 2008, it was Rosie Thomas’ A Very Rosie Christmas.  It’s February – I know – but if Christmas in July isn’t a bad thing, Christmas in February can’t be either.  In fact, listening to A Very Christmas might just wear away at those post-Christmas winter blues.
On These Friends of Mine, her previous album, Thomas was at her most sparse.  Her whispered voiced, joined mainly by an acoustic guitar, barely made it past the microphone.  The songs were melancholy lullabies with help from Dave Bazan, Jeremy Enigk, Denison Witmer, et al.  A Very Rosie Christmas may still employ backing by a host of friends, but it also benefits from more complex arrangements.  The arrangements are still Rosie; however, full band backing makes Rosie speak up a bit.  For anyone that has seen Thomas in concert knows that the girl’s got pipes, and while she doesn’t belt anything out on A Very Rosie Christmas, it’s great to hear her a little bit more clearly.
As with all indie poppers, rockers, and folkies, doing a Christmas album can be seen as a sellout, and as such, some acts distance themselves from traditional arrangements, chestnuts, and jazz if they make a Christmas record at all.  Rosie, instead, embraces such elements.  For Thomas, this works well.  The way she wishes everyone well at her concerts, the compassion for the characters in her songs, these elements are indicative of her charm.  She’s a traditional gal.  It may have been a foregone conclusion then for her to do a rather traditional pop (jazz influenced) Christmas record – and do it well.
Thomas isn’t a stick in the mud though.  She uses staple lyrics from hymns sung at candlelight services in “O Come O Emmanuel” and “Silent Night.”  The songs are unabashed pop music, radio ready, and are surprisingly enjoyable.  “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year?” is a reminder of the best anthemic Christmas songs of the 60s.  The piano drives the song garnished by guitar relish.  And only Rosie Thomas would have the gall to record a message of felicitations to the folks that played on and produced the record.  She ends her message, “My greatest wish for you this holiday season is that you are surrounded by love.”  Thanks, Rosie.
Rosie Thomas doesn’t carry the pretense that makes nearly every other Christmas album worthless.  She’s genuine, the real article.  The focus is then not on Rosie but on the Christ child and the community of believers that share in the joy of remembering such a birth.  A Very Rosie Christmas, then, might be relevant and enjoyable (and necessary) all year around, a pep talk to the one who might have given up all-together on hope of a good, honest Christmas album.
Luke Johnson
See for another Tollbooth Review of this album.

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