Some recording artists issue holiday albums as items to fulfill contractual obligations and are rarely invested with the full creativity of one's craft.
Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno is the exception to these rules.
Posada offers a dozen tracks delivered in Spanish and English in an astonishing variety of styles.
Opener "Adeste Fidelis" weds the triumphant hymn to mariachi, orchestral pop, and vintage R&B.
"Peces el Rio" is a traditional Spanish carol whose poetic lyrics contrast the pregnant Virgin Mary involved the chores of everyday life with the anticipation of fishes in the sea at the arrival of the world's savior.
Moreno introduces the song with a flamenco intro before transforming into a swinging gypsy jazz number (complete with delirious violin) as traces of Andalusian and Sephardic folk are woven through the chart--her scat singing in the outro is gorgeous.
How many versions of "El Niño Tambor" ("The Little Drummer Boy") have been arranged as country-blues numbers with a ringing slide guitar? "El Primer Noel" ("The First Noel") and "Noche de Paz" ("Silent Night") are indie-style productions that offer wonderfully textured modern sonics with a dreamy warmth framing the vocal.
Contrast this with her close-to-the-root reading of "Oh Pueblecillo de Belen" ("O Little Town of Bethlehem"), a lovely ranchera.
Another Spanish carol, "Hacia Belen Va Una Burra Rin Rin" (whose roots date back to Galician times) is a children's song offered with a norteño lilt, while "Mi Burrito Sabanero" is a grooving cumbia.
"Jesus en Pesebre" is an organ- and reverb-drenched, guitar-driven hymn, but her delivery never sacrifices the lyric's reverence in the arrangement.
"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is resonant, bluesy gospel, while closer "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" retains the familiar North American standard for calssic pop.
An intimate piano, upright bass, brushed snare, and jazz guitar underscore her crystalline vocal, which is wistful yet restrained, capturing the melancholic and nostalgic emotional core in the lyric.
Moreno's approach here is mostly non-secular, but her stylistic diversity makes necessary room for the universal nature of the holiday (the devotion in the Phil Spector-esque "Santa La Noche" is a stirring example).
Posada is sophisticated, ambitious and fun.
It stands as an original in genre where retreading the tried and tired is the industry norm.
Moreno's command of the material is astonishing, making this set is a must hear for anyone else interested in Christmas albums, and an essential purchase for those seeking to add only the very best to a collection.