Southern Rock Christmas

Better than its Classic Rock Christmas counterpart, this 2002 12-track compilation works as both a roots, country, and rock holiday collection. Neither the crusty "Christmas Boogie" from the West Coast's Canned Heat nor Brit-based Foghat's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" quite slot into the Southern rock title and genre, but both work well in this guitar-heavy showcase, so we'll let the compilers off the hook. Liner notes, individual personnel, and graphics are substandard at best, yet this collection takes a handful of Christmas chestnuts, along with some originals from the late '60s through 2001, brings 'em down South, and adds crunchy guitars. Axeman Steve Morse contributes a heavily overdubbed solo "Joy to the World" that also doesn't exactly fit the bill musically. But between difficult-to-find tracks like Elvin Bishop's rollicking "Silent Night" and George Thorogood's "Rock and Roll Christmas," the album by and large lives up to its title. Additionally, many relatively rare singles that were previously scattered among other discs are now easily available. At 38 minutes, the album is on the short side, yet there are few missteps here for the Southern rock lover. The disc flows particularly well, with a solid mix of swampy rockers, upbeat R&B/blues-rock, and country & western twang. ~ Hal Horowitz

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