Prime Cuts: Ordinary Baby, That Special Time of Year, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Overall Grade: 5/5
Reggie & Ladye Love Smith show that you don't have to reinvent the wheel to release a stunning record. "That Special Time of Year" is the couple's debut Christmas album and their first with Gaither Music. However, the Smiths are not novices. As a duo, the Smiths have had performed in over 30 countries and they have had shared the stage with Dolly Parton, George Jones, Lee Greenwood, Brenda Lee, Ricky Skaggs, Sandi Patty, Larnelle Harris, Patti LaBelle, and many more. Such experiences show on this album. Though most of the songs are tried and true carols and festive tunes, the Smiths have a way of making the album sound refreshing as well as nostalgic.
Produced by Reggie, the album speaks volumes about his prowess behind the helm. His use orchestration on the album opener, a medley of "Carol of the Bells" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas day," creates a majestic feel that immediately transports us to the sentimentality of the season. The lushful strings that accompany "What child Is This" reminds us of the awe of who this baby boy really is. Sweet Little Jesus Boy" gets a touch of warm country jiggle, that is affecting. Meanwhile, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," has a lazy jazz vibe, making it such a nice song to relax to in the hustle of the season.
Vocally, the Smiths are on top of the game. Ladye Love incarnates each note on the Bill and Gloria Gaither's "Ordinary Baby" with so much emotion, that you can't help but pick up a Kleenex as she sings about how Jesus has come so we no longer need to be afraid. Though "O Holy Night" has been covered more than a zillion times, Ladye Love strikes the right balance between bombast and tenderness. Reggie, who has a smooth tenor, also shines, especially with the 80s-sounding and the album's only original song, "That Special Time of Year"
"That Special Time of Year" is not an album that tries to re-invent Christmas music. But it's also by no means soporific; the interesting backings give these tracks a renewed attraction that is so befitting for the season. Moreover, the Smiths do sing their hearts out. This is an album that deserves to be on repeat all year round.