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Whitehorse | A Whitehorse Winter Classic

The husband-and-wife duo present a memorable musical keepsake.

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It’s the thought that counts. We all say and hear that throughout the holidays — usually to soften the blow of a disappointing, impersonal gift that ironically displays a woeful lack of thought on the part of its purchaser. The phrase also springs to mind as you listen to A Whitehorse Winter Classic. But not for the reason you might suspect. Rather, it’s because married musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland make it crystal clear that thoughtfulness, the personal touch and attention to detail make all the difference when it comes to Christmas music. You’ll find all those qualities in abundance — along with plenty of sincerity, style and songcraft — throughout the seven original songs that form the bulk of this nine-track gem. Don’t assume we’re talking about some sort of treacle-soaked pablum here, either. Voiced in McClelland’s snow-angel tones and Doucet’s sidewalk-sand rasp, these sharp, frank and contemporary lyrics run the emotional gamut from joyful to wistful to cynical to downright vengeful — the cunningly titled Merry Xmas, Baby (I Hope You Get What You Deserve) is a tune that literally puts the ex in Xmas. Similarly, Whitehorse‘s musical backdrop is a long way from one-dimensional or traditional here, shifting seamlessly between rootsy twang, power-pop crunch, Beatlesque rock, paisley jangle, haunted country and orchestral sweetness. Even the disc’s two covers — The Pretenders2000 Miles and the Elvis chestnut Blue Christmas — feel chosen for specific musical needs, not just tossed in like stocking stuffers. Bottom line: Although the disc barely breaks the half-hour mark, Doucet and McClelland have clearly put a lot of thought, work and love into their homespun holiday gift. And that undeniably elevates A Whitehorse Winter Classic in a memorable keepsake you’ll return to in years to come.