Happy Christmas Eric Clapton (Bushbranch/Surfdog) After lo, all these

years, blues master Eric Clapton has released his very first full length Christmas album, and

boy howdy, is it ever a good one! His 24th studio record, Happy Christmas features a cover sketch of Santa by Clapton himself, and mixes well known Holiday titles with lesser known but equally compelling Yuletide tunes. Rest assured, ye merry gentlemen, you have never heard “White Christmas” like this. Clapton infuses the classics with ample doses of the blues. Same goes for “Away in a Manger,” and the lovely “Silent Night,” sung with a choir and some serious blues licks. Slowhand raves it up with a very techno

beat reading of “Jingle Bells,” which jumps off the record as quite a surprise. A nice one, but a surprise nonetheless. “For the Love of Christmas” is the lone new song on the album. A tear jerker of a Holiday love song sure to become a part of your yearly Christ- mas mix tape. Beautiful. “Everyday Will be Like Christmas” is

presented here with a heart full of soul, and “Christmas Tears” evokes a real Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe. “Home for the Holidays” and “Christmas in My Hometown” are both excel- lent, as is the rocking “It’s Christmas” and the piano enhanced “Sentimental Moments.” Eric’s vocals never sounded better. “Lone- some Christmas” rocks along to music very similar to “Before You Accuse Me.” The last two tracks on the album are

both standouts. The classic “Merry Christmas Baby,” which we have heard delivered by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Winter, is chock full of Clapton guitar riffs, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is delivered in its traditional form by EC, rounding out this “instant classic” for the Holiday season. Sure, it took him a few

decades to record a Christmas album, but let’s face it, it was worth the wait.

-Michael Buffalo Smith

Country Faith Christmas: Volume II My Christmas Col- lection Ana Cristina Cash (CURB/ Cracker Barrel)

There is never a shortage of great music

on sale at Cracker Barrel Family restaurants, and now there’s even more good Holiday music available with Volume II of Country Faith Christmas, a 16-track compilation fea- turing an array of country superstars singing straight from their hearts, and a new Christ- mas album from Ana Cristina Cash, wife of John Carter Cash called My Christmas Collec- tion.

Country Faith Christmas begins with

the reigning Queen of country, Carrie Under- wood lending her beautiful voice to the Christmas classic, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Darius Rucker sounds great on “What God Wants for Christmas,” and Chris Young with Alan Jackson deliver a great new song, “There’s a New Kid in Town.” The songs are often breathtaking, as with John Berry’s “Do Not Be Afraid” and the Holidays rock with Wynonna on “Let’s Make a Baby King” and Brenda Lee’s already classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Kelsea Ballerini’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is beauti- ful, and ol’ Bocephus, Hank Williams.Jr. de- livers “Little Drummer Boy” in his trademark baritone. Phil Vassar sings the classic “What

Child is This?” and Kenny Rogers sounds as good as ever on “A Soldier’s King.” One of our favorite Christmas songs, “Mary Did You Know?” is sung here by Dylan Scott, and the

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