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Non-Prog CD Reviews


New Star Shining

Review by Gary Hill

This album was released last year. I didn't get a copy in time for our December issue last year, so I've been hanging onto it until now. The cover of this album gives you a really idea of what you will get here, if you look at the picture. One window seems to show a religious version of Christmas, while the other shows the secular. That is literally how this album is set up. Personally I prefer the second (secular) half of the disc. Part of that comes from the fact that I have some issues lyrically with the other half, but a bigger issue is the fact that the music for the secular songs is just a lot more fun. The album shows off a balance between soft rock styles that at times lean toward country and even jazz. The first half of the album just seems to take itself much too seriously to really be all that enjoyable. I wonder if it might have been a more balanced release if they had alternated between religious and secular songs rather than splitting it down the middle. In any event, this is a solid release that has some really strong stuff.

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Track by Track Review
New Star Shining
This balladic piece has great vocal harmonies. The musical arrangement is understated, but also just about perfect in terms of serving the song.
Quiet Place
A song with country and folk built into it. This has a lot of drama and magic built into it. The harmonica is a nice touch.
Jinglin' in New England
Bouncy and a little on the jazzy side, this is an old-time pop rock styled number. It's a fun romp.
Mary's Christmas
A balladic number, this has some particularly pretty melodic elements. It gets powered up, but not beyond the level of ballad.
I Wish I Could've Been There
More of a folk rocker, this has a more stripped back arrangement for the verses. There are definitely country elements at play here. There are some tasty intricacies in the musical arrangement here.
The Sound of Christmas
This song has a great soft rock vibe to it. There are folk and country elements at play, but overall this is the most mainstream piece here.
Mary Had a Baby
While this isn't precisely acapella, the sea of vocals have only sparse accompaniment. It really is about the barbershop quartet like concept, anyway.
Snowed in With You
Folk rock with a healthy helping of country in the mix, this is classy stuff. It's another highlight.
I'm Comin' Home for Christmas
Now, this is another classy Southern soft rocker. Between the secular lyrics and strong music, this is one of my favorite songs here.
I Wish I Could Fly
Here we get a piano and vocal arrangement to start this. It feels like a holiday ballad from a bygone era with it's jazzy motif. That gets built upon as other instruments join.
Winter Wonderland
This holiday classic gets a performance that really has a classic sound to it. This is fun stuff, but this has always been an entertaining romp.
Ballad of the Christmas Cowboy
A country concept is on the menu here, but you could probably get that from the title, right? The arrangement has a lot of strings and other augmentation on it. The toothless part of the vocals is a funny touch. Then again, the lyrics in general are humorous. This is another song that really feels like it could have been recorded and released in a bygone era.
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