Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis The Season - For Christmas Albums

Christmas CDs have turned into something of a cottage industry, although the results are often cottage cheese. This year, however, several Americana-friendly artists are serving up some rather tasty musical treats for the holidays.

Shelby Lynne – Merry Christmas (Everso Records). On this 11-song set, Lynne gives a torchy touch to some holiday standards (“Silent Night” and “Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland”) with her rendition of “Silver Bells” really shining. The disc’s middle section is particularly strong as Lynne delivers a moving “O Holy Night” to a festive “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and follows it with a powerful original “Xmas.”

Indigo Girls – Holly Happy Days (IG Recordings). Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have put together a dozen holiday tunes – some old, some new, some borrowed and some originals (sorry, that it doesn’t rhyme). They display an entertaining range of music, from traditional choral tunes (“Angels We have Heard On High”) to more down-home efforts (the bluegrassy “I Feel The Christmas Spirit”). The gentle Amy Ray original “Mistletoe” is a lovely tune no matter the season, but the Girls really shine on the uptempo tunes (“I Feel The Christmas Spirit,” “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” and “The Wonder Song). They even give a shout-out to hillbilly Hebrews with a spirited rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”

Scott Miller - Christmas Gift (Fay Recordings). This Xmas CD presents one of the more unusual song credits – Miller, R.B. Morris and T.S. Eliot - which appears on the opening track medley “The Kingdom Has Come/Journey of the Magi.” Miller’s 7 song seasonal offering serves up an entertaining mix of reverence and irreverence. His front porch arrangements of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Joyful, Joyful” fill the former while his original “Yes, Virginia” and the Roger Miller (no relation) “Old Toy Train” supply the latter. And anytime John Prine’s wonderful wry “Christmas In Prison” gets recorded, it is time to celebrate.

Dan Hicks – Crazy For Christmas (Surfdog Records). It’s should come a no surprise that Hicks’ Christmas offering is a fun, spirited affair. Using his signature hot jazz/western swing/vaudevillian rock hybrid, Hicks and his Hot Licks mix oldies but goodies (“Run Run Rudolph,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus”) with good-humored originals (“Christmas Mornin’” and “I’ve Got Christmas By The Tail”). It all makes for a merry Xmas party album.

So when you are looking for a new Christmas disc, you don’t have to settle for Susan Boyle or Katherine MacPhee, but seek out one of these alternative Christmas albums.

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