Personnel: John "The Groover" McDuffie (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, background vocals); John "J.T." Thomas (keyboards); Randy Landas (acoustic bass, electric bass); Lynn Coulter (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Audio Mixer: John McDuffie.
Recording information: Grooveolator Music, Los Angeles, CA; Johnny's Room, Reseda, CA.
Rita Coolidge has never been the most prolific recording artist, and ever since her first album as a solo artist, 1971's self-titled Rita Coolidge from A&M Records, she has kept things at her own pace, releasing material when it most suits her. This holiday set, her first new album since 2005's And So Is Love, may seem at first glance to be just another seasonal release, the kind artists often do to fill a contract clause, but that wouldn't be quite true, since Coolidge has always had an affinity for Christmas music and stages tours and concerts during the holiday season most years, and this set reflects that. The sound here is warm, easy, and uplifting, with Coolidge's solid touring band (John McDuffie on guitar, John Thomas on keyboards, Lynn Coulter on drums, and Randy Landas on bass) delivering jazzy pop shuffles behind Coolidge's still sharp and clear singing. Highlights include warm, rhythmic takes on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Santa Baby," a New Orleans-styled "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and Native American-rendered atmospheric versions of "Little Drummer Boy" and "Amazing Grace," although everything here fits and flows together like a bright and cozy holiday quilt. ~ Steve Leggett