December 10, 2001 12:00 PM

B.B. King (MCA)

Album of the week

It’s hard to bring dash to the kind of songs you associate with Andy Williams and Mel Tormé, but everything B.B. King touches turns to cool. Affirming that Christmas has its melancholy moments—and not just when you’re trying to force down another mouthful of Grandma’s turkey—King, 76, forsakes Frosty and Rudolph in favor of bittersweet, adult titles like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Lonesome Christmas” and “Please Come Home for Christmas.” His languorous, liquid guitar licks cruise through all of them with such mellow aplomb that you’ll swear Santa’s workshop is located somewhere in the vicinity of New Orleans. In King’s hands these old chestnuts are still roasting quite well.

King’s voice has always been overshadowed by his guitar, but his throaty rasp, at once wistful and muscular, is in fine form. Turn the TV off and put the kids to bed; Christmas is for grownups too.

Bottom Line: Here’s to a blues Christmas

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