In the hands of less perceptive artists these meditative holiday hymns would have been dressed up in big production, boasting big stars with bigger voices booming the bombast in hopes of simulating a sense of seasonal celebration. Thankfully, Ritter and Petito keep these atmospheric ruminations rooted in the here and now, creating a restive pastoral of ancient yearnings for modern times.
Always an instrument of intimate clarity, Ritter's bell clear voice was destined to sing these songs. "Can't we give a little hope to an aching world," she appeals on the original Give A Little Hope; and you just know, deep down, that if we just look within ourselves instead of outside ourselves (where the salesmen count ka-chings) we would find that hope inherent.
Mixing evocative originals like the wistful title track and the inspiring If Mary Knew; Robbie Robertson's Christmas Must Be Tonight and Cyndi Lauper's mindful December Child with the traditional, especially the achingly beautiful In The Bleak Mid-Winter, Ritter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Petito, and guests, among them - Jerry Marotta, Marc Shulman, Beth Reineke, Baikida Carroll - conjure a personal space for us all to pray within, pondering the greater mystery that, no matter what our beliefs, binds us all.
PS: If you're not familiar with this very talented and respected Hudson Valley duo, may I recommend 2002's timeless Circles In The Sand and it's equally impressive predecessor, In The Silence.
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