30 CCM VARiouS ARTiSTS The Essential Christmas Collection (Essential Records) FOR FANS OF: Tenth Avenue North, Brandon Heath, Casting Crowns QQQ This star-studded collection is a must- have for every lover of Christmas music. This project features a good mix of classic holiday fare, as well as original songs like Brandon Heath’s “The Night Before Christmas.” The standouts also include Kerrie Roberts’ rendition of “O Holy Night,” as well as Matt Maher’s “Silent Night (Emmanuel).” Though some of the songs have been released previously, this collection is ideal for anyone looking for a variety of beautiful songs for any Christmas gathering. –Grace S. Cartwright WE LIKE: “The Night Before Christmas” DAVe BARNeS Very Merry Christmas (Razor & Tie) FOR FANS OF: Andy Davis, Matt Wertz QQQ One of Nashville’s favorite singer/ songwriters Dave Barnes has charmed audiences for years with his memorable melodies and “aw, shucks” demeanor. Now the same traits are applied to the holiday season with six original compositions and four reworked classics including “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” The best work here is “Christmas Tonight,” a duet with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, and “Mary and Joseph,” which features Thad Cockrell. –Matt Conner WE LIKE: “Christmas Tonight” WiLSoN PHiLLiPS Christmas in Harmony (Sony) FOR FANS OF: Wilson Phillips, Chynna & Vaughan QQ Straight out of ’90, Wilson Phillips is back with uber-producer Glen Ballard in tow (who also helmed the trio’s hit debut) to reunite around their first-ever Christmas project. With three originals thrown into a mix with several familiar hits (which Christmas CD doesn’t do this?), the results are hit-and-miss. The bouncy “Christmastime” is fun, but a bit too summery for the season, but the group’s harmonies on “Silent Night” bring a new flavor to the classic. –Matt Conner WE LIKE: “Silent Night” PHiL KeAGGy Welcome Inn (Strobie Records) FOR FANS OF: Randy Stonehill, Charlie Peacock QQQQ Phil Keaggy’s Welcome Inn is a welcome and warm respite from the holiday cold filled with beautifully woven tales concerning all aspects of the Christmas season. From personal experiences (“Best Christmas Morn”) to the birth narrative of Jesus (“And On That Day”), Keaggy acoustically explores the Christmas experience with his intimate arrangements and soft tenor. An instrumental “In The Bleak Midwinter” serves as a centerpiece for a wonderful holiday offering. –Matt Conner WE LIKE: “In The Bleak Midwinter” CHRiSTMAS ReVieWS Christmas 30 CCM