Miracles on Christmas Day
Kimmie Rhodes has produced a Christmas album made up largely of her own compositions. So while not a collection of classic Christmas songs and carols, the album, from its cover art onwards, does encompass all the expected Christmas themes, and definitely has the feel and ambience of a traditional Christmas record. Rhodes’ singing is at its sweetest throughout, but it’s likely this album may be a little too cloying for many.
“Carol of The Bells” is one of the few traditional Christmas songs on the album. Innumerable versions, by the likes of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis give you an idea of the song’s provenance. “What Child Is This” is the other Christmas standard, a carol set to the tune of “Greensleeves”. You also get Rhodes’ own take on the nativity story in “The Christmas Star” and, in “Sleep Baby Sleep”, a lullaby with an ethereal feel. “The Toymaker’s Hands” is unfortunately twee and probably the album’s nadir: Everything made by the toymaker’s hands is beautiful in its own way, the song comes complete with little background sound effects of trains, rockets and wind-up toys.
On the positive side, “One More White Christmas” features Rhodes’ best singing, and “Little Touch of Christmas”, a slightly jazzy ballad, is better too. “Angel Unawares” is the best of Rhodes’ own songs, featuring an attractive conceit about showing kindness to strangers: Give every stranger’s face a good look, you never know when you might meet an angel unawares.
Patty Griffin’s song “Mary” offers a rare shot of realism, being a tribute to the mother of Jesus with just a little bit of a feminist edge: While the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory, Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place. And a little more grittiness of this kind is really what the album needs. It would be unfair to criticise Rhodes for what the album is not, so if a collection of mainly new Christmas songs, all sung very sweetly, is what you’re after, this will fit the bill. But if you’re after something with a bit more of an edge or just a touch of grit, then steer well clear. And for this reason, its audience may be somewhat limited. Rhodes embarks on a tour of the UK and Ireland at the end of November in support of this release.