I often find myself looking to veteran music critic Ann Powers, in matters of taste and prose. On the topic of Seattle songwriter Shelby Earl, I'll take a quote straight from her: "Over the years I’ve become friendly with a few musicians... In general, though, I’ve clung to that old idea that critical perspective and personal connection don’t mix. Until now. I’m writing this note to ask you to listen to an album by a friend."

I met Earl through mutual friends years ago, and it's been a thrill to see her successes this year. She released "Burn the Boats" this year through Immaculate Noise favorite Rachel Flotard's Local 638 Records label, the album featuring John Roderick of the Long Winters. The alt-country artist brings the same amount of heart and bits of sentimentality into new holiday track "This Christmas Is For Us."

Earl's charming voice makes me think of what would happen should Lisa Hannigan sing Josh Ritter songs. This particular acoustic track has a little extra burn on it with strong folk harmonies, enough to light that tree you keep meaning to decorate. Now, at least, you have the soundtrack.

And congrats to Shelb for topping the "Outstanding 2011 Albums You Might Have Missed" list on Amazon, the same company where she formerly worked as a liaison between label and the storefront. Holly jolly all around.

This Christmas Is For Us by shelbyearl1