Kaylee Keller – Christmas in Your Arms

Official URL: http://kayleekeller.com/

The holiday season always means a spate of full length or individual releases centered around the Yuletide theme. The bulk of these are covers and Kaylee Keller’s contribution is no exception. Her cover of Alabama’s classic “Christmas in Your Arms” is a duet with country singer Rusty Rierson and their performance of this classic captures the romantic implications of the season as well as the festive. The track is, overall, quite faithful to Alabama’s original but Keller wisely doesn’t attempt recreating it from scratch and choose, instead, to give it a much grander thrust while maintaining the same focus as Alabama’s version. The production gives the performance a particularly lush quality in comparison to the classic take without ever laying the aural effects on too thick.

The track begins with a brief and gentle guitar and fiddle wind up before settling into a steady and pleasing shuffle. The shuffle has a mildly brisk pace and matches the vocalists well. Alabama’s original version isn’t a duet, but Rierson comes in first on Keller’s version and each handle half a verse before handing it off to their singing partner. Keller’s and Rierson’s voices complement each other very much in the classic country mode, ala Twitty/Lynn or Jones/Wynette, and their phrasing similarities dovetail nicely into each other.

Her cover is only a few seconds shorter than the original. Keller’s take on the song, however, doesn’t rely as much on the electric guitar and instead chooses tastefully played piano to carry the melody. The bottom end work is nearly identical. The bass and drums never assert their presence too much but keep things moving forward.

Keller and Rierson’s vocals are on target. Duets aside, they are obvious products of the classic country school and tackle the concise lyrics with the warm, underplayed phrasing that’s a hallmark of the genre. It’s a real show that Keller wants the best for the song that she shares so much of the spotlight with Rierson, but he’s a talented singer in his own right that gives the track a spin it might not otherwise possess. They come together quite nicely on the chorus.

This is a clearly commercial song, but there’s no harm in the fact. Keller and Rierson take this song on as if it were their own and sing with open-hearted sincerity throughout. There’s certainly great respect in how they approach this Alabama classic as well, but they are never so reverential that they are content with simply duplicating the achievement of a classic country music unit. Instead, they bring new ideas to the table, change the song’s musical focus, and restructure the vocal as a dialogue between two sympathetic voices and score big. Kaylee Keller is one of the rising talents in the traditional or alt-country genre and sounds thoroughly modern while still strongly invoking the past. “Christmas in Your Arms” will please any listener who loves classic country music and Christmas-themed material.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/christmas-in-your-arms-single/id1158396735

Jason Hillenburg