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If you must buy only one holiday album of instrumental guitar music, let Robin Bullock's A Guitar for Christmas be the one. It is magnificent. First, know that the award-winning Bullock is a genuine guitar god among mortals, a man who must have at least 25 digits on each hand to accomplish his feats of magic. Second, this holiday album is superbly constructed in every respect--song selection, production values, just everything.

One note of caution: Bullock is excellent, but his sophisticated presentation here speaks in a gentle voice; if you seek one of those boisterous, hard-plucked treatments of holiday fare, then A Guitar for Christmas is just not the guitar for you.

Bullock's technical proficiency enough is astounding, and he pumps emotive warmth into every moment. His 16 tracks are broken into four separate segments (Introduction: Daybreak is the first track; Part One: Christmas Morning covers tracks 2-5; Part Two: Christmas Day covers tracks 6-11; and Part Three: Christmas Night covers tracks 12-16). The differences among the sections are subtle; in general, the morning pieces tend to be slower, filled with anticipation; the day section is more celebratory and has a faster tempo; then Christmas night is back to a slower, more reverential, tone and pace. The overall focus is on ancient carols and includes many of my personal favorites ("Carol of the Bells," "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"). I especially enjoyed the "O Come O Come Emmanuel/Light of Love/Sussex Carol" medley, which is deeply textured and also happens to be the album's longest track.

Robin Bullock's A Guitar for Christmas effortlessly creates a warm afterglow, assuring the listener that it is very good to be alive in this world. Come bask in the glow.

--Carol Swanson


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