The Hope of Christmas – A New Christmas Recording ★★★★★

The Hope of Christmas – A New Christmas Recording
Ann Hampton Callaway Sings the Lyrics of William Schermerhorn

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
Produced by Marty Ashby

As a rabid fan and collector of holiday music, each December brings the inevitable anticipation of new seasonal offerings typically followed by the disappointment holidays discs too often bring.  But wait a minute – not so fast this year!  Like a star shining brightly in the East, the great Ann Hampton Callaway has crossed the desert bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh in the form of The Hope of Christmas – A New Christmas Recording.  Put it on and experience the rapture angels bring in the form of gorgeous melodies, smart lyrics and exquisite singing!  I dare you.  Better yet, I double-dog dare you!

Sounding like an instant classic, at first you may think The Hope of Christmas is too good to be true.  But repeated playings (and, trust me, you won’t be able to turn it off) will confirm for you its achievement as a superb collection of holiday themed songs steeped in sexy jazz stylings and rhythms.  Emmy-winner William Schermerhorn’s lyrics, set to the wonderful music of Wesley Whatley, Stephen Fox, Matthew Sklar, Milton Deluge, Mary Ehlinger, Michael Feinstein and Callaway herself, accomplish the impossible in being incisive without being cloying, seasonal without being sticky, and delightful without being overbearing.  They deal with wistful memories of home (“On Union Street”), optimism for the future (“The Hope of Christmas”), seasonal loneliness (“I Saw a Sparrow”) and pure silliness (“Santa Doesn’t Like Me”).

Of course, having any collection of songs performed by Ann Hampton Callaway is reason enough to break out the eggnog!  With her luscious, gorgeous voice wrapping itself around every note and nuance, The Hope of Christmas is a welcome gift from beginning to end.  Whether she’s singing a soaring ballad like “Discovery” or “My Gift of Thanks,” or tossing off a bossy-nova, novelty number like “What Good is Being Cranky (When It’s Christmas Time),” with her flawless, multi-octave instrument Callaway’s voice is never less than astonishing.  But don’t wait till Christmas to give your family and friends The Hope of Christmas – they’re going to want it right now!

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