Sugarland, "Gold and Green"
Christmas collections can present a slippery slope-albums of covers rarely stand up to the classics and sets of all new material struggle to capture the comfort and joy of the season. Thankfully, Sugarland delivers with its new holiday album, "Gold and Green," a smart and comfortable mix of standards and new songs penned by the duo's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush and a few friends. Nettles' trademark growl and playfulness on "Winter Wonderland" and "Nuttin' for Christmas" are just what the December doctor ordered. Bush's lead vocal on the steel guitar-laden "Holly Jolly Christmas" beautifully blends with Nettles' intertwining reprise of "Winter Wonderland." But the proof in the pudding is the fresh yet familiar-feeling originals. The gorgeous opener, "City of Silver Dreams" (penned with Ellis Paul), tells the tale of a town transformed, while the soulful "Coming Home" borders on a full-on gospel number complete with B-3 organ. Bush's take on "Maybe Baby (New Year's Day)" shares the modern classicism of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne."-Ken Tucker