That's What Christmas Used to Be[CD]
Often compared to the late singers Karen Carpenter and Eva Cassidy, vocalist and songwriter Laura Pursell blends a combination of angelic soulfulness with west coast cool. Her voice and music defy categorization - she has recorded everything from jazz to pop to country to electronica. No stranger to the music business, Laura was raised in Nashville, and her father is Bill Pursell, who had his own hit record on Columbia in 1963, as the artist on the instrumental single "Our Winter Love". "That's What Christmas Used to Be" was Laura's third recording under the Netcom Music label. For this ambitious project, Grammy winning producer and saxophonist Rusty Higgins gathered the talents of arrangers Bob Florence, Kim Richmond, Scott Lavendar, and Bill Pursell, and they (together with Rusty) took standard classical holiday songs and dressed them up with completely unique arrangements, surrounded by a strong rhythm section, horns, and the Nashville String Machine. "We Need a Little Christmas" is presented as a rollicking salsa; "Winter Wonderland" is a buoyant bossa nova; "Have a Yule That's Cool" is performed as a happy-go-lucky shuffle; "Jingle Bell Rock" has a searing rock guitar solo; and "'Zat You, Santa Claus?" sounds like a horror movie soundtrack crossed with a burlesque review. Two original songs, including the title track, add a modern twist to the standard holiday fare, and Rusty Higgins' lush sax solos peppered thoughout the record make this a CD to include in every holiday collection. Here Laura really gets to showcase her vocal range, from the exuberant show-stopping opener, "We Need a Little Christmas", to the velvet-tinged "Silver Bells", to the smooth, deeply wistful longing of "The Christmas Song". Her jazz and swing background are very evident on the uptempo "Let it Snow" and the even jazzier "I'll Be Home for Christmas"; but when she brings out her trademark lower register on the ballads (check out "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas), she manages to convey a thinly veiled sadness that will hit you straight in the heart.
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