Light of the Stable
With so many Nashville stars crossing over into adult contemporary radio via twang-free Holiday albums, it's refreshing to hear Emmylou Harris keeping Christmas country. Light Of The Stable was recorded in 1979, but her heartfelt hayseed hymns somehow sound simultaneously timeless and relevant. Add to that a rich cornucopia of stellar guests and get ready for the kind of musical gift that just can't be made by toy shop elves. An upbeat take on Tex Logan's "Christmas Time's A-Coming" opens with James Burton's guitar, some melodic banjo and Ricky Skaggs' mandolin all blending to support some of the most beautiful high-lonesome harmonies ever put to tape. The rest of the album abounds with carols penned by a handful of acclaimed country music songwriters as well as more piously themed standards like "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Away In A Manger" and a gorgeous acapella version of "The First Noel" that boasts heavenly harmonies by Dolly Parton and Kate and Ann McGarrigle. The title track floats with Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt lending vocals, but Rodney Crowell's exquisite "Angel Eyes" is easily the jewel of the album – Willie Nelson singing alongside Emmylou begs for them to bestow us with a duets project.