EP Review – Julie Roberts – “Who Needs Mistletoe”

Julie Roberts

Who Needs Mistletoe

* * * * *

Every year with anticipation, I look forward to adding new Christmas recordings to my personal collection, which I’ve been steadily adding to for more then fifteen years. When I heard Julie Roberts had a holiday record available for download, I jumped at the opportunity to add it amongst my favorites from years past.

Roberts brings to life songs we’ve all know and love such as “Blue Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Away In A Manger,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and adds newer fare like “Pretty Paper” and the title track. She adds warmth to these tunes that allows them to feel fresh, as though we’re just hearing them for the first time.

“Blue Christmas” showcases the bluesy qualities to her voice and allows Roberts to truly shine. It was a smart choice to open the album as the drum crescendo welcomes you in before being hit by the power of Roberts’ voice. When she sings the opening line, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you” you know she was born to sing this tune.

But it’s the addition of the mandolin on both “Away in a Manger” and “Pretty Paper” that makes Who Needs Mistletoe the best country Christmas album of 2011. I find it refreshing Roberts didn’t go the full big band route that many a country singer has traveled down with their own Christmas recordings. She’s managed to strike the perfect balance, appealing to both country and non-country fans alike while still sounding like a country singer singing Christmas songs. It’s as elegant as any country album you’ll hear all year.

But in terms of vocal prowess, “O Holy Night” is the biggest surprise. Roberts brings so much power to this song I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting the range in her vocal performance and the simple Dobro and guitar-laced production suits her perfectly. I always new she could sing, but this adds another dimension to her vocal ability that she’s yet to fully cultivate on one of her previous albums.

And like her previous albums, Roberts adds her signature flirty playfulness here, this time by way of the title track. In its own right, “Who Needs Mistletoe” is a well-executed song, but I found the hook, “who needs mistletoe/I’d rather be under you” weirdly placed among tunes celebrating the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday. But it works simply because its so memorable and doesn’t overdue the frank sexual undertones

Who Needs Mistletoe is a first-rate collection of songs all brought to life by Roberts’ stellar voice. Whenever I hear her sing I always wonder why she never broke through and garnered the attention she’s so richly deserved by country radio and the fans. When music is this sophisticated and classy it deserves just such recognition.

I only wish this EP had included more than just seven songs, as by the end I was hungry for so much more. I feel like Roberts has only scratched the surface in what a holiday album from her can sound like and I hope there is much more coming down the line in the years to come.

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