December 2005

The Marshall Tucker Band - Carolina Christmas
Shout Factory/Ramblin’ Records DK 37463
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

Southern bands from the '70s are famous for soldiering on despite tragedy and personnel changes, and the Marshall Tucker Band is no exception. Bassist Tommy Caldwell died in a car accident in 1980, and his brother Toy, whose distinctive guitar playing was the band’s primary attraction, left the band in 1983. (He died in 1994.) Singer Doug Gray, the band’s only original member, has kept Marshall Tucker on the road while moving it further in the pop-country direction that gave it such success with "Heard it In a Love Song" in 1977.

On Carolina Christmas the band celebrates its longevity and shares its memories of a time of year when it could leave the road to be with family. The disc opens with a rendition of "White Christmas" that starts traditionally enough before giving way to the band’s best Southern-boogie style. Guitarist Clay Cook (Gray’s nephew) has Toy Caldwell’s tone and feel down, but he also has his own good ideas. He is a stronger singer than Gray, who I’ve always enjoyed most in small doses. Gray’s daughter, Gabrielle, turns in a very nice vocal on "I’ll Be Home for Christmas," a high point of the disc that also features a tasteful solo from Cook. The less said about Gray’s recitation of "The Night Before Christmas" and drummer Barry Borden’s "My Christmas In Custody" the better.

This nicely recorded disc captures a sense of holiday togetherness by including family and past members of the band. Not essential, by any means, but an enjoyable addition to a Christmas-disc collection.