Monitor picks

Five seasonal records, from folk to classical to country, that we think you'll really like.


KT Tunstall is so irrepressibly chipper on a cover version of "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders that she could bring Christmas cheer to the Grinch. The KT Tunstall Holiday Collection (available through Target) also includes gleeful glockenspeil on "Sleigh Bells" and a duet with Ed Harcourt on a version of The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York."

Easy listening

If listening to Stockings By the Fire feels a bit like stepping into Starbucks, that's because the coffee chain compiled the album. It's hard to go wrong with classics such as Sinatra crooning "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or Ella's "Sleigh Ride." Among the contemporary artists – Rufus Wainwright, Diana Krall – Jack Johnson's version of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a balmy departure.


On the Country Christmas compilation, Nashville's old-school – including Kenny Rogers, Deana Carter, Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker, and Alison Krauss – add pedal-steel guitar, fiddle, and a twangy twinkle to 18 seasonal standards.


Does The Mormon Tabernacle Choir have their eye on Las Vegas? Its new Christmas release, Spirit of the Season, sounds like an audition tape for a mega casino gig in the new, family-friendly Vegas. Backing up Norwegian pop goddess, Sissel, the 360-strong choir adds a song from the film "The Polar Express" – plus an Abba standard – to their holiday repertoire. "Spirit of the Season" resembles an Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza: overproduced and shamelessly fun. (PBS will be televising the "Spirit of the Season" concert throughout December.)


Mindy Smith is a gifted songwriter with a voice that contributes mightily to global warming on this touching collection of Christmas standards and memorable originals. Her third CD, My Holiday, features a delicate duet with her Nashville pal Alison Krauss on the classic "Away in a Manger," and she's penned an instant holiday classic with "He Will Find You," a sweet assurance to kids everywhere that they can never be out of Santa's beneficent gaze.

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