Let’s be honest. There comes a time about halfway through the push to Christmas where we’re overloaded, worn down, and in need of some respite from the relentless push of the crowds, the traffic, the wrapping, the cookies, and so, so much more. We just need a good drink, a comfy chair, and some peace. When those moments come, yet still find you wanting to maintain some semblance of Christmas cheer, look no further than Ron Block’s Carter’s Creek Christmas to guide your way.
Most will recognize Block as part of the talented group of individuals that make up Alison Krauss and Union Station, alongside fellow instrumental heavyweights like Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski. Yet Block is an accomplished solo artist in his own right, and here he shows his colors, working through eight instrumental tracks that will bring the peace of the season as well as your praise as you engage this talented work.
Block leads off with the warm tones of “What Child Is This?,” his stirring guitar work effortless as he works through the familiar refrain, adding in an extra dose of life with poignant plucks of banjo which lend that perfect something extra. That same banjo steps to the forefront on “Sleigh Ride,” offering up bright tones which merge with energetic fiddle swells from Tim Crouch while “Angels We Have Heard on High” breathes with a sweet richness, allowing the time-tested melody to resonate as it should.
Fiddle and guitar work in tandem to bring Christmas favorite “O Holy Night” to life, Block’s guitar warmly leading the way while Crouch’s fiddle lends the emotional tone to the classic, while “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a warm delight. Building on the moody vibes of the original, Block readily co-opts this into an Appalachian wonder and his virtuosity is seen through every note making this one of the EP’s must listens. Following suit, “Brightest and Best (Star in the East)” puts the banjo front and center yet maintains a peaceful flow, allowing the track to wash over the listener.
The big city and country collide on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” with touches of traditional elements merging together with Block’s bluegrass sentiments in a playful mélange of sound that really works. It’s the only track that lets him plug in and his guitar work is at once nostalgic and smoking, while Crouch’s fiddle continues to impress, nearly stealing the show at points. With the guitar driven “The Cherry Tree Carol,” Block brings his holiday musings to a close, ending on a note that invokes a sense of peace and rest, something much needed during this hectic season.
And that’s ultimately what Carter’s Creek Christmas brings to listeners this year. While embracing the heart of the season and its nostalgia, Block also presents an oasis from the craziness that threatens to engulf us all. With eight tracks that ripple with the artist’s sublime instrumental skills and a heartbeat behind it that speaks to more, this record beckons you to sit and breathe for a moment, something many a listener is bound to welcome as they ponder the depth of this holiday season.