Recorded to benefit the Special Olympics, this has some of the biggest names in contemporary music, most covering seasonal favorites with mixed success. Outstanding tracks include The Pretenders "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," with Chrissie Hynde giving a touching performance. Run-D.M.C.'s topical "Christmas in Hollis" relies heavily on sampling "Back Door Santa," and may head you toward the dance floor. Alison Moyet's stately version of "The Coventry Carol" is beautifully haunting. Only the Material Girl, Madonna, embarrasses herself with an overly campy "Santa Baby".
In the dense annual blizzard of holiday albums, A VERY SPECIAL ACOUSTIC CHRISTMAS shines like a gleaming treetop star from a warm, inviting living room, thanks to its organic, no-frills approach and its remarkable lineup of performers. Dan Tyminski (of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? fame) offers up a charming version of "Frosty the Snowman," while Willie Nelson lends his legendary voice and guitar playing to a fine take on "Please Come Home for Christmas." Alison Krauss contributes her surprisingly poppy "Only You Can Bring Me Cheer (Gentleman's Lady)," Marty Stuart confides that "Even Santa Claus Gets the Blues," and Pat Green saunters through a relaxed "Winter Wonderland." Bringing the Yuletide album to an appropriate close is Norah Jones, in a beautiful solo rendition of Horace Silver's "Peace".