The only thing Judge Clark Douglas got on the Pecos were saddle sores.
Guaranteed to become a family favorite.
When we speak of country music, let us speak of country music, and not this pop-twang nonsense attempting to pass for country music these days. Turn to your local country music radio station and take a listen for a few minutes. Odds are pretty strong that you're not listening to country music. If that's country music, then Kenny G is a punk rock star. There aren't too many real country music stars left. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are gone, and the likes of Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Willie Nelson aren't dominating the airwaves the way they used to. It's just not easy for a real country music singer to make it big in today's market. People want slick pop/rock songs about butterfly tattoos and sexy tractors, not actual country music. Real country music has a straightforward honesty that is severely lacking today. I'm no big fan of country, but I can certainly recognize a real country star when I hear one.
Randy Travis is the genuine article, someone who understands that country music is most effective when it is stripped down to the basics. Do you know why Travis' song "Forever and Ever, Amen" is one of the best country love songs of recent years? Not because it has a killer melody or a razor-sharp lyric. No, it's a great song because it is a simple, direct, and heartfelt declaration of love: "I'm gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever, amen." The great country musicians have a way of cutting through the "flowery B.S." that most lyrics rely on and dealing with issue at hand in a memorably straightforward manner. That clear-eyed sincerity is what makes Travis an ideal candidate to provide his take on a set of Christmas standards, and this DVD won't disappoint his fans.
Most singers make an attempt to add a personal trademark to a few of the Christmas songs. Most of the time, they fail. It's hard to improve on a standard, and the further you get from the original, the bigger risk you run of embarrassing yourself. That doesn't apply in most musical situations, but it does when it comes to Christmas songs. Travis doesn't make the mistake of trying to do a fast version of "Away in a Manger" or some such thing. Steady as a rock, he presents a very traditional set of tunes backed by his usual guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and drums. The closest Randy comes to a gimmick is a brief exchange of corny jokes with a young child. "Hey kid, what does a snowman eat for breakfast?" "Frosted flakes!" "Aw, you smart little rascal!"
Many of the tunes are performed onstage. However, a few of them are performed in the depths of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, with significant backup from the Carlsbad choir. The results are ethereal and kind of spellbinding, as the spine-tingling echo effect aids a song like "Silent Night" immensely. Cool beans. I kind of wish the whole concert had been filmed there. Anyway, a good set of songs have been chosen for inclusion on this DVD, including popular tunes like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Winter Wonderland," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Pretty Paper," and so on. However, Travis throws a few surprising selections into the mix. First, we get the hymn "Rock of Ages," which is one of the tunes performed in Carlsbad. We also get the aforementioned "Forever and Ever, Amen," which is not a Christmas song, but is worth hearing any time of year. In addition, we hear Randy's dramatic reading of "The Christmas Guest," and an odd little original tune dedicated to a tasty snack called a "Sopapilla." Heh.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is excellent, with deep blacks and well-balanced colors. Lighting inside the murky caverns is excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio is very strong as well, creating a rather immersive concert experience. A few extras are included on the disc. We're given a 5-minute featurette on the Carlsbad Caverns, a 5-minute making-of piece, a 3-minute look at some Christmas lights in New Mexico, 7 minutes of Randy chatting with his audience while technical difficulties are taking place, and a live performance of the popular tune "Three Wooden Crosses." These are worth browsing through once. Those seeking out an engaging holiday-themed concert DVD that doesn't wear out its welcome should consider Christmas on the Pecos.
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