Taking a break from the upcoming release of his fourth solo album since breaking away from Hootie and the Blowfish in 2008, Darius Rucker has penned a new Christmas record which he hopes over time will be added to the traditional canon of Holiday tunes. Self-described as a Bing Crosby meets Johnny Mathis blend, Home For The Holidays contains a mix of well known tracks including O Come All Ye Faithful and Winter Wonderland along with two original co-written numbers titled Candy Cane Christmas and What God Wants For Christmas.
Opening with the upbeat, light-hearted Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow Rucker successfully sets the mood of the album. Jazzy inclinations and orchestral accompaniments give each song a nice texture and atmosphere but can sometimes feel a bit corny and overdone. You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch is a fun, playful take on the much loved classic and features Rucker’s own children singing back up vocals.
Track number five features a guest appearance by good friend and occasional collaborator Sheryl Crow who duets with Rucker on Baby, It’s Cold Outside. It’s a charming rendition and the sweet female vocals of Sheryl are a much-welcomed breath of fresh air. Together they make a good effort at building the song up in waves of chorus lines and various counter melodies but it never quite seems to resolve the way we want it to which is disappointing.
Please Come Home For Christmas is more enjoyable with its bluesy rock aesthetic. Rucker seems more himself here and listeners will connect more with both his vocal delivery and the emotive blues guitar licks. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is good too and has some nice instrumental textures, particularly the wash of sound occurring about half way through which includes atmospheric electric guitars, crisp bells and appropriately dramatic drums.
Produced by Frank Rogers, the album is aimed at listeners partial to all sorts of musical genres including rock, country, RnB and soul, but truth be told, while they’ve tried to cover their bases by appealing to a wide audience, they somehow seem to miss the mark, producing instead an album of acquired taste. Rucker’s voice, though rich and soulful in its’ baritone range feels as though it is just going through the motions whereby Rucker is singing the words on the page without revealing any truly tangible personality.
It’s always hard to take such well-known songs, especially Christmas ones and make them your own but Home For The Holidays feels a bit forced like Darius Rucker is simply trying too hard. No single track really stands out to the listener, rather, it sounds like something one might hear in the empty piano bar of a fancy hotel lounge. With so many Christmas albums already on the market and new ones being added every year, artists need to bring something fresh and unique to their interpretations and sadly, Darius Rucker has missed this opportunity. It’s kind of a case of, if it looks like a Christmas album, and sounds like a Christmas album it’s probably nothing more than another…Christmas…album.