seemingly thrives on creative eclecticism, and he's clearly delighted to be showing off his many musical moods on his first seasonal album, Marshmallow World and Other Holiday Favorites. The twangy baritone guitars on "Not So Merry Christmas" suggest his latter-day work with the Mavericks
; "Jingle Bells" is Malo in full-on lounge lizard mode; "Marshmallow World" speaks of smooth pop with just a touch of swing; there's a swaggering blues accent on the two Elvis
covers ("Blue Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Back in Town"); "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is appropriately forlorn; the arrangements head south of the border for the Latin-tinged "Silver Bells" and "Feliz Navidad," and "Silent Night" is reverent and touching. Malo does so much aural shape-shifting on this album that it never quite establishes a strong personality of its own, beyond the fact all the songs deal with Christmas and Malo is in typically strong form on these sessions, singing with estimable power and casual authority no matter what style he adopts. Malo also produced this album with Jim Weaver
and Evan York
and they're smart enough to know how strong to play the retro vibe of these sessions, aiming for a classic sound without sinking into the quicksand of fake nostalgia. (The photos of Alisha Murray in the liner booklet will also bring a smile to anyone who remembers Herb Alpert
's Whipped Cream & Other Delights
.) Marshmallow World and Other Holiday Favorites almost tries too hard to cover so many stylistic bases, but that's an improvement over the tossed-together sound of so many seasonal albums, and it offers further proof that Raul Malo is one of the best vocalists at work today; this will sound fine while you're relaxing by the fireplace with someone special on Christmas Eve.