My Heart Is Bethlehem (Ark21)
One of country music's great voices delivers a warm and wonderful holiday musical celebration. John's rich vocals fit these songs like a heavy coat in a snowstorm. Clean and sparse production keeps the focus where it belongs - on his glorious pipes.
"Let It Snow" extols the virtues of snuggling in a house well stocked with love during inclement weather, while "Snowed In" intensifies that theme nocturnally. Billy Dean and Michael Peterson join John for some splendid vocalizing on "We Three Kings." Peterson penned the title cut, a fresh look at an old topic - what happened long ago, far away in the silence, safety and sanctity of a manger.
"The First Noel" lends itself to John's sensitive delivery, but the album's heart and soul is tucked right in the middle of the CD: "The Lord's Prayer" is offered in soft and silent tones as it begins, and ends with a sweeping, majestic finale as we hear John at his finest. If this were the only cut, the CD would still be a bargain.
Have yourself a very Berry Christmas!