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Lady Antebellum rings in holiday season with festive studio album

Acclaimed country ensemble Lady Antebellum has released its first Christmas studio album, On This Winter’s Night, featuring songs from the group’s 2010 A Merry Little Christmas EP, other covers and new tracks. The record has climbed to the top of Billboard’s holiday albums list a month before the “most wonderful time of the year” truly begins.

The trio delivers classic yuletide tunes with the pop-country flare that made the band famous in the first place, but the tracks fail to differentiate themselves from other holiday fare.
Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood have invited Santa Claus to Nashville, and like so many artists before them, they put forth fresh material and also pay tribute to old standards.

Certain songs appear on virtually every Christmas record, and Lady Antebellum’s effort includes holiday classics like “Let It Snow” and “Silver Bells”. As far as more original tunes go, the trio co-wrote the album’s title song “On This Winter’s Night.”

Fans of Lady Antebellum will enjoy the heart-strumming duet pieces found throughout the album. “On This Winter’s Night” uses the same female-male duet style with adorning harmonics that first put the group on the map in songs such as “Just a Kiss” and “We Owned the Night”. The familiar semi-romantic connection between vocalists Scott and Kelley is sure to make the record’s titular tune a new Christmas classic for country music devotees.

Songs such as “The First Noël” and “Silent Night” are executed with poise, eloquence and overtones of religious fervor. The prominent classical guitar in “The First Noël” adds an aged varnish to the spiritual melody. “Silent Night” is a continuous crescendo, starting with Scott and building into an almost gospel-style hymn. With these tracks, the trio from Nashville manages to blend its signature style with a deep-rooted devotion to the origins of the holiday at hand.

Still, On This Winter’s Night isn’t a particularly innovative holiday album, and audiences looking for a thick country rendition of Christmas songs will be slightly disappointed to hear that this record has more in common with Michael Bublé than with Garth Brooks. Musical influences such as Mariah Carey on “All I Want For Christmas Is You” pull the album toward the realm of pop and away from the band’s usual comfort zone.

Typically, Lady Antebellum’s studio albums are littered with songs about dying relationships, with the vocals of two lovers breaking apart. This latest effort resists the band’s natural themes and lacks the heartbreak and desperation of past tracks such as “Cold as Stone.” In this way, the optimism of the holiday season breathes life into the record.

On This Winter’s Night won’t wow its audience with ingenuity or originality, but true fans of the trio will still find themselves pressing repeat on their iPods. Even though the record fails to break away from the herd of holiday albums that speckle the charts each November and December, Lady Antebellum has still made a successful go of crafting a Christmas compilation, and we can only hope that any future albums will bring back the band’s innovation and country flare.

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