Album: Kate &amp; Anna McGarrigle <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, NONESUCH
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The Independent Culture

Christmas with the McGarrigles sounds a competitive business, with the various arms of the extended family roped in for a carol-singing session of daunting professionalism, complete with solo spots from all the precocious siblings, before they're packed off to bed with a cup of warm eggnog (whatever that is). Accompanied by a rustic palette of pump organ, whistle, accordion, fiddle and guitar, the tone is of a seasonal hootenanny, with silver-haired aunt Emmylou popping in to lead a somewhat sombre "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and young Rufus bringing his show-tune sensibilities to bear on "Spotlight on Christmas", a jaunty bagatelle in which Jesus, Mary and Joseph are characterised as "each one quite odd - a mensch, a virgin and a god". But their hearts are in the right place, as evidenced by Lily Lanken and Martha's "Rebel Jesus", a Jackson Browne song giving festive spirit a righteous spin: "In this life of hardship filled with earthly toil/ We have need for anything that frees us/ So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer/ From a heathen and a pagan/ On the side of the rebel Jesus".

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Rebel Jesus", "Old Waits Carol", "Seven Joys of Mary"