Balsam Range, Sha Na Na and Jennifer Saran
It's Christmas Time
This six song EP features four very well-known Christmas songs but the effort opens with the lesser-known "Christmas Lullaby," a Doc Watson composition that with orchestration and the group's sweet harmony vocals comes off as stunning, fully reflecting the reverence of the season. The guys offer too their take on Ralph Stanley's "I'm Going Home, It's Christmas Time," this time sticking to pure bluegrass with fiddle and banjo galore and more incredible three-part harmony. The included holiday standards are the sprightly "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" complete with an unexpected saxophone solo, appropriately subdued takes on "The First Noel" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and a bluegrass instrumental rave-up of the classic "Jingle Bells." Get it here
Sha Na Na
The Classic Christmas Collection: Rockin' Christmas
Pat Boone's Gold Label
Fans may remember Sha Na Na from their performance at Woodstock, their appearance in the film "Grease" or their own late '70s TV show; here the doo-wop loving "greaser" rockers put their unique spin on more than 20 holiday songs, many of which, like opening cut "Ugly Christmas Sweater" are originals written by the band's singing drummer Jocko Marcellino. Other Jocko-penned cuts include the Chuck Berry-inspired "Rock Rudolph Rock," the mid-tempo rockabilly of "Ain't No Holly in Hollywood," the amusing "Santa's On a Diet" and the swinging "The Santa Bop." Some of the standards featured are "Blue Christmas," "Jingle Bells," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Feliz Navidad." Get it here
Saran's 2015 holiday album Merry Christmas, You Are Loved was so successful that here she is quickly back with a new set of standards and originals. As with Merry Christmas, Saran again teams up with Narada Michael Walden who co-writes, produces and plays various instruments throughout, and he does all of those things on opening track "Christmas Lover," a cut that features the legendary Temptations. The song is a slow jam that's custom made for a hold-me-tight dance under the mistletoe or snuggling on the couch. "Sleigh Bells" is a jazzy ride embellished with a horn section, "Swinging at Christmas Time" moves to a finger-popping beat and girl group recalling vocals while the album's title cut is a quiet, R&B-flavored pop cut that revels in the joy of spending the holiday with a special lover. Saran also has fun with a take on the traditional cut "Soul Cake" which she dedicates to Sting, and perhaps the best of her co-writes with Walden, the sensual "Where Are You Christmas." Get it here.