Putumayo’s countless compilations of mall-friendly world music would be eminently mockable even if the company hadn’t been sent up so memorably on Seinfeld, but you’ve got to hand it to them — these folks know how to put together a nifty mix CD. Their umpteenth holiday compilation, A Family Christmas, breaks the label’s strenuously pan-cultural stereotype, instead serving up a tasty souffle of high-quality yuletide music while still managing to stay eclectic enough to include the likes of Martin Sexton, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Leon Redbone.
At 11 tracks and just over 33 minutes in length, A Family Christmas lasts just long enough to down a couple mugs of eggnog, or to string half the lights on your tree — or, really, to play for hours while you cook dinner, wrap presents, or enjoy family time. Only two of these tracks aren’t available anywhere else (Johnny Bregar’s lovely acoustic take on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and the Brave Combo’s “Jolly Old St. Nick”), but if you aren’t the type of person who’s likely to spend the money on, say, Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island — but still wouldn’t mind owning his delightfully droll take on “Let It Snow” — A Family Christmas is a decent value at $13.99. If you’ve already got a huge collection of holiday music, this isn’t anything you need to bother with, but if you’re looking for one Christmas album with enough breadth to please the whole family — and hold up to plenty of repeat plays — you can safely purchase A Family Christmas without reservations.