Christmas albums, despite their innocuous nature, have to be something of a challenge for an artist. Consider the fact that most Christmas songs have been covered by hundreds of artists and that trying to reimagine them could easily blow up in one’s face. Plus, there’s the added challenge of trying to craft an original that has to battle upstream against the flow of all the old classics. In short, it’s oftentimes a losing proposition. Yet Marc Broussard and his take on the Christmas season, Magnolias & Mistletoe, manage to avoid these pitfalls as he delivers faithful renditions of the classics alongside a few originals, each touched with just a bit of his signature bayou soul.
The key to Broussard’s success is that he doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel with these holiday classics. Instead, he simplifies the arrangements, stripping them down to their essence, anchoring them off of warm piano backing and allowing his soulful voice to do the rest. It’s a bare bones formula that few could get away with but is one that Broussard works for all it’s worth.
Among the classics found here are album opener “The First Noel,” which the artist delivers with ease while New Year’s favorite “Auld Lang Syne” makes an appearance as well, the toasty piano notes combining with Broussard’s nuanced vocals for a great listen. “The Christmas Song” finds a home here and should join many a holiday playlist this year while celebrated carols like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” also get their fair due.
Of the carols, Broussard is most successful with “O Holy Night” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” “O Holy Night” finds him in strong voice, with the piano leading and a simple set of voices backing him while he sings out the timeless lyric. The key is in his restraint, which finds him lending the track plenty of emotion while not overwhelming the lyric with unnecessary runs or show-off vocal histrionics. The same can be said for the moody tones of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as Broussard respects the weight of these ancient lyrics and honors them with his delivery, creating a worthwhile listen.
His originals don’t slack in their impact either, though. “When Christmas Comes Along” ripples with holiday warmth and cheer as Broussard sings of seeing the beauty of the holidays through the love and joy of his family. It’s personal and poignant and cuts right to the heart without pressing into the saccharine sweet notes of some other contemporary holiday tunes. And with “Almost Christmas,” Broussard taps into his Louisiana soul, his swinging composition framing out lyrics that long for home after a long spell on the road and is one that we can all identify with.
The beauty of Marc Broussard’s Magnolias & Mistletoe lies in his restraint. Respecting these songs for what they are, he enhances and celebrates the beauty of their tradition and nostalgia by delivering them faithfully with subtle yet tasteful touches of the soul and R&B that he’s known for. It’s simple, stirring, and well worth adding to your Christmas playlist this holiday season.