Familiar melodies paired with novel arrangements make Andy Thorn’s High Country Holiday a refreshing musical gift.
The Leftover Salmon banjoist gathered a bunch of like-minded pals to fashion a Christmas album without words and devoid of cliches – no sleigh bells for example – that even a Scrooge can enjoy as Thorn takes listeners on a 33-minute winter hike that begins at “Joy to the World” and ends at “Auld Lang Syne.”
Just as Thorn takes an untraditional tack with the songs, his approach to bluegrass is similarly off the well-trodden path. While fiddle from former Yonder Mountain String Band member Allie Kral, Town Mountain’s Bobby Britt and Andy Reiner are not unexpected, the left-field additions of Joy Adams’ cello and Erik Deutsch’s piano are lovely additions to the sound, rounded out by Salmon’s Greg Garrison on bass.
Thorn stuffs this aural stocking with an original – “The Bells of Boulder” – which, sandwiched as it is between “Greensleeves” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” is as natural as snow in December in this setting.