Scotty McCreery shares a warm holiday hug with many of the most well-known Christmas classics on his new 'Christmas With Scotty McCreery' album. From top to bottom, this is a consistent project that takes few chances, but offers 11 pleasant recordings to easily slip into one's yearly holiday playlist. 

The uptempo songs provide many of the highlights on 'Christmas With Scotty McCreery.' It's here fans get to enjoy the singer's boyish personality and the sense of humor, which came so naturally during his 'American Idol' run. Covers of 'Jingle Bells,' 'Holly Jolly Christmas' and 'Santa Claus is Back in Town' stand out like candy canes on the Christmas tree. One can't help but reach for them first. On 'Santa Claus...,' McCreery does his best Elvis impersonation, dipping way down low to sing "You gonna see me coming / In a big black Cadillac." It's a joy!

'Christmas in Heaven' and 'Christmas Comin' Round Again' are the two originals. The latter is a flat performance of a flat story, but 'Christmas in Heaven' is a moment worth holding on to. McCreery's story of the one he's missing come Dec. 25 shows emotional depth and maturity. Grab a box of tissues if you've just lost a mother, father, friend or even a dog and plan to buy this album.

Song choice on the remainder of the album is a concern. The North Carolina native stays true to original arrangements of songs like 'Let it Snow,' 'The First Noel,' 'Winter Wonderland' and 'O Holy Night.' Each is a fine vocal performance, but with little to distinguish them from the legendary classics we turn to every December, there's no sense of ownership. At least one song, 'The Christmas Song,' is simply too old. It's a stretch to believe the college freshman plays intramurals and attends to Calculus lectures at N.C. State by day, and sings Nat King Cole by night.

It'd be rude not to mention the most exciting part about 'Christmas With Scotty McCreery,' which is that the singer sounds much more relaxed and confident in studio than he did 12 months ago. The reality is that a holiday album will only be a blip in his catalog if he has the career many expect him to. When it comes time to record his true sophomore album, McCreery will have this experience to draw from. That should be nothing but an asset.

3 Stars

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