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LeAnn Rimes with ASO and Jay Farrar


A real holiday treat For her Saturday night show with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, LeAnn Rimes chose a number of songs requiring a big, powerful voice, knowing all the while that she could deliver the goods. And boy, did she ever. At times playful and spirited (as on the frolicking “Let It Snow” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”) and at other times sexy and sultry (as on a steamy “Santa Baby”), Rimes belted out holiday favorites — and a few of her hits — to an appreciative crowd at Robinson Center Music Hall. She has an incredibly strong voice and handles classics like “O Holy Night” and “The Christmas Song” with strength and sophistication. High notes? She hit ’em. And at the other end of the scale, she demonstrated the huskiness and emotion that has brought comparisons to country legend Patsy Cline. Rimes’ powerhouse performance on Vince Vance and the Valiants’ “All I Want for Christmas” may have been worth the price of admission all by itself. An obvious crowd favorite, it also showcased the outstanding accompaniment she received from the ASO. Perhaps her most emotional and heartfelt number was “A Different Kind of Christmas,” which she wrote after the events of 9/11. Before its superb backing of Rimes, the ASO shone during the show’s opening 30 minutes with a rousing, jubilant “Joy to the World” and a bouncy, fun, fast-paced “Jingle Bells,” among many other terrific selections, under the expert direction of guest conductor Frank McNamara. Acclaimed for his work with the Irish Tenors, McNamara got a chance to display his prowess on the piano as Rimes sang “Some People” from her next CD. Following a standing ovation, an exit and a triumphant return to the stage, Rimes closed the show with an awesome a cappella version of “Amazing Grace.” — By Bill Paddack 50 watts happening Sticky Fingerz took on the aura of a Greenwich Village coffee house in the late 1960s last Thursday as singer/songwriter Jay Farrar emerged to play a two-hour show. From the first inwardly drawn harmonica riff of the show opener “Greenwich Time” to the closing notes of the encore (a Townes Van Zandt cover), Farrar had the packed house hanging on every note. Farrar began the show with songs from his latest album, “Stone, Steel and Bright Lights,” and meandered back through his catalogue, encompassing songs from both the Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt years. In recent years his message seemed to be clouded and lost, but last week Farrar returned to the clarity of his formative years. He was back to painting the Middle America of his youth in a single sentence, and conveying a mind full of thoughts in just a few minutes. When the house lights came up and the candles on the tables were extinguished, you knew that you had witnessed something greater than the typical bar show. — By Will Bird

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