CD: Shelby Lynne’s “Merry Christmas”

Shelby Lynne: Merry Christmas

(Everso Records, 2010):

For the first time in many years, I’m not doing a big round-up of all the new holiday music albums. But I am going to pluck three of my favorite discs out of this year’s batch and review ’em.

This is the second one:

A swing blues rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with harmonica.

A snappy bluegrass blitz through “Christmastime’s A-Coming.”

A Brenda Lee-like pop-a-billy romp through “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

A straight forward version of “White Christmas” adorned with dobro and inexplictable jazz flute.

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Shelby Lynne seems to be trying to cover all of the musical bases with her first holiday CD. Either that or else she really needs a producer to help her focus her eclecticism.

As stylistically scatter-shot as the disc might sound, there are gems here well worth searching out – primarily the two original tunes that Lynne nestles in among the nine other holiday favorites, both sacred and secular.

“Ain’t Nothin’ Like Christmas” is a bouncy, upbeat holiday party soundtrack – laced with a rollicking old-school guitar solo – but Lynne’s voice has a razor-sharp blues edge to it that alludes to the loneliness of the season, too. (Her versions of “Silver Bells” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” follow suit, walking the thin line between bitter and sweet.)

But if you’ve got the Christmas blues, nothing this year is likely to cut deeper or closer to the bone than Lynne’s other original contribution, “Xmas.” Lynne – who was orphaned at the age of 17 when her father killed her mother and then himself – eases her way through a shimmering, wah-wah laden funk-blues ballad that opens with the line, “Christmas makes me sad/Daddy’s being bad.” Later on in the languid, slinky blues, she confesses, “Christmas makes me sad/I’m being bad/Holiday cocktails make me forget/The gifts that Daddy never opened.”

Lynne knows all too well that Christmas isn’t all about shiny tinsel and dancing sugar plum fairies…

Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks’ “Crazy For Christmas”


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