Well, keeping to the tradition of 12 days of Christmas, there is still a wee bit of time to bring up a very neat album that we found in my parents' CD collection when we were looking for something to play on Christmas Eve. It's called (not too surprisingly) Holiday Guitar; the man behind the guitar is Dan Crary. All in all, it's a laid-back album, but if it puts one in a relaxing mood, that is only because the guitar player must have done anything but relax to get it all together. The arrangements span a pure, melodic version of "The Coventry Carol," to wonderfully bluegrassed renditions of "God Rest Ye, Merrie Gentlemen," and "What Child is This?" with an appropriately harmonica-laced, "Christmas Blues A-Comin'" thrown into the mix. It is quite rare that tried-and-true carols like those that make up the majority here are complimented with treatment that makes them sound fresh and new all over again, but this album seems to do it very tidily. To get right to the point, the musicians are treating Christmas music like music--with room for embellishment and innovation--and not merely an obligatory seasonal parroting of a hundred other instrumentalists.
You can (and should) hear a few samples over at Dan Crary's own webpage; Holiday Guitar is about a quarter of the way down the page if you scroll down here. If you need any more assurance that it is a rather remarkable album, here is a last thought to chew on: Crary's swinging (and, again, harmonica-complemented) rendition of "Santa, Baby," actually compells one to replay the track immediately on finishing it. No other musician in my book can make that claim to fame.