Susan House

Susan House

Susan House

Gifts of the Season

Sisu Heart

Christmas CDs can either be the cheesiest — or most classy — item in your music collection. Having reviewed Susan House’s Christmas singles last year, I already knew what to expect on her first full-length entry in the Xmas sweepstakes. House is no holiday pretender, no artist simply trying to take advantage of St. Nick for a quick buck. This is a woman who truly loves Christmas, sleigh bells and all.

House sticks to the beloved and familiar, but none of it sounds stale. In fact, her lovely singing on “White Christmas” makes it among the finest renditions of the song ever. There is a timeless, romantic quality to her voice that transcends the lyrics’ wintry, spiritual origins. House’s style is vocal jazz but there is a pop influence on view as well, especially in the infectiously upbeat “The Light of Christmas.” On “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” House’s voice soars; she makes the tune seem new, invigorating it with her midnight crooning.

The highlight is probably “Silent Night,” which House reinterprets as a cross-cultural duet with Asian singer Norm Santarin. Santarin actually rewrites lines in his native Philippine language, giving the classic a world-music makeover that is utterly refreshing, cool and hypnotic. Better yet, Santarin harmonizes with House so well that you wonder why they didn’t collaborate on the whole record.

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