(MCA Records 1994)

by Sandra L. Toney

Ever since Garth Brooks discovered a young country female singer named Trisha Yearwood, country fans everywhere have been extremely grateful. Yearwood has an "angelic" voice, so it's no wonder she released her first Christmas album, "The Sweetest Gift" to display her talented sound on some of the world's most beautiful and peaceful music selections.

The album exhibits a fun side of Yearwood as well as a serious, spiritual side. On such rockin' songs as "Reindeer Boogie," "Santa Claus is Back in Town," and "Let It Snow!, Let It Snow!, Let It Snow!," Trisha comes at us full-force with that powerful, yet sensitive, voice.

Of course, Yearwood is at her best when she's using that forceful voice of hers to sing sentimental ballads. The softer side to Trisha Yearwood is by far her most enchanting side. The album has quite a number of slow, meaningful selections that are definite fireside, underneath-the-Christmas-tree types of songs. "There's A New Kid In Town" (co-wrote by the late Keith Whitley), "Away in a Manger," "The Christmas Song," and the moving "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" are all Yearwood-type choices.

Perhaps the most chilling, yet appropriate, selection on the album is the song written in 1988 by Skip Ewing, "It Wasn't His Child." As the Biblical story tells us, Mary married Joseph when she was already caring the baby Jesus. "It Wasn't His Child," tells us of the special bond between Joseph and the infant savior, ""But like a father he was strong and kind and good/And I believe he did his best/It wasn't easy for him, but he did all that he could/His son was different from the rest/It wasn't his child, it wasn't his child . . ."

The song continues with Jesus, of course, growing into a man and narrates how he then bonded with HIS father, "And like his Father, He was strong and kind and good/And I believe he did his best/It wasn't easy for him, but he did all he could/He grew up with his hands in wood/And he died with his hands in wood/He was God's Child, He was God's Child..." This ballad is destined to become a Christmas classic.

The title song, "The Sweetest Gift," has special meaning to Yearwood as a song she used to sing with her sister at family gatherings. So, she asked her sister, Beth, to sing it with her once again on the album and they dedicated it to their parents. The song tells us about what the sweetest gift is: a mother's smile. Yearwood convincingly tells the mother's story in the opening verse, "One day a mother went to a prison/To see an erring but precious son/She told the warden how much she loved him/It did not matter what he had done." The song obviously reiterates what the Christmas season is really all about: love and forgiveness. Yearwood presents the message in a most beautifully wrapped package.

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