Based on the American East Coast, singer Hughie Mac is enjoying an expanding public profile thanks to his recent “…Sings Some Great Songs” releases revisiting the vast American songbook. Mac is a honest, no frills interpreter of “standards” and has enough faith in his talents to turn them towards any style. His easy going confidence and panache gives anything he touches an instantly likable twist without ever straining for attention. His latest collection is an entry in a sturdy tradition – Hughie Mac Sings Classic Christmas Songs is a sixteen track tribute to the holiday season certain to merit playing during the Yuletide but there’s more here. Hughie Mac’s new effort has enough musical and emotional substance it can be enjoyed anytime during the year.
The same direct, uncluttered production distinguishing Mac’s earlier albums is present on this release as well. The opener “We Need a Little Christmas” frames Mac’s voice well in juxtaposition against the buoyant yet unobtrusive instrumentation. Mac understands how to play to his vocal strengths and his obvious focus on phrasing above all else helps enhance listener’s emotional response to the performance. “The Christmas Song” has a stronger musical presence and you cannot help but admire the unabashed certainty in his own skill Mac brings to his version of one of the holiday’s best known songs. It sounds like it’s an easy proposition; I want to record a Christmas album so no song is off limits. The truth is not all songs are created the same and iconic recordings like this can seem a little intimidating for lesser vocalists; Mac does not join their company. Instead, he provides us with his own indelible take on a classic.
The loose and easy amble of “Marshmellow World” cozies up to listeners from the first and Mac underlines its comforting warmth with an equally familiar vocal. This isn’t as well known of a track these days like some of the album’s other material, but it’s notable how Mac treats all of the songs the same – they elicit an equal amount of respect rather than any specific track set up as a centerpiece element. He captures just the right amount of energy with his performance of “Winter Wonderland” and the backing track achieves the same light-footed, near-classical swirl. It’s also a good illustration of how Mac claims a bit of these classics as his own thanks to just tossing in a light, yet signature, twist. He serves up a performance of “Jingle Bells” that doesn’t betray a bit of unhappiness with the material – Hughie Mac isn’t offering this up as a calculated move to make some cash, he’s offering up Christmas songs he loves and his affection for even the “simplest” songs is audible.
He even tackles “religious” themed Christmas material with the same lack of affectation and obvious respect. The album finale “O Come All Ye Faithful” never feels or sounds overwrought; instead, Mac and his musical choices always land on the right side of musical art. His voice gives it the sound of a steady and unvarnished plea for all men and women join together during the Christmas season. It is as appropriate as possible for ending a release like this – Hughie Mac’s Hughie Max Sings Classic Christmas Songs has something for everyone who loves this time of the year and beyond.
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