Let It Be Christmas (Arista Nashville)

Alan Jackson's previous holiday effort, 1993's Honky Tonk Christmas, bucked tradition by including none of the usual seasonal carols - it was a forward-looking album filled with brand-new songs by a then-new star.

That didn't sit well with Alan's mother, who asked when her son was going to make an album with all the familiar Christmas classics she knew and loved. Well, that time is now, and Let It Be Christmas is that album. All but one of the 11 songs here are tried-and-true favorites.

But as this CD demonstrates, "tried-and-true" doesn't have to mean "the same old thing." When Alan lets loose his smoothly commanding voice on these songs, you may feel as if you're hearing them for the first time.

As suits those comforting tones, Let It Be Christmas keeps the spotlight on home and family: "White Christmas" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" are present and accounted for. But Alan also bears in mind the holiday's true significance by including spiritually minded numbers like "Silent Night" and "Away In A Manger."

At first, Alan's mom may want to cry "foul" over her son's inclusion of the new self-penned title cut, but she's likely to be won over by "Let It Be Christmas." It's a gentle number that carries some of the inclusive spirit of his Sept. 11 anthem, "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" - like that song, it reaches into every corner to find our common humanity. Mrs. Jackson should be proud.

-- Chris Neal

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