Sunday, December 15, 2013


Music is as much a part of the holidays as Christmas elves, Christmas ales and Christmas presents. Make sure your playlist isn't a white elephant by cooking this baker's dozen of records into your mix.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Vince Guaraldi Trio

Every holiday playlist begins here. It would be like having a tree without lights to not include A Charlie Brown Christmas on your seasonal soundtrack.

From the opening keys of O Tannenbaum to the Green Sleeves finale, Vince Guaraldi (piano), Monty Budwig (bass) and Colin Bailey (drums) wrapped up THE classic Christmas record in 1965 for an annual television special that's just as essential.

It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite. Mine include Linus and Lucy, Christmas Time Is Here (vocal) and Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.

Feel free to do the Snoopy dance early and often no matter what the holiday.

Horny Holidays!

Horny Holidays

Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors

While A Charlie Brown Christmas ranks as the all-time family classic, there is no better late-night adult listening than Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors' Horny Holidays!.

It's rude, nude, juvenile and a rockabilly blizzard that often borders on sacrilegious. It's also impossible to sing the original lyrics after hearing the Mojo version.

For instance, "We three kings of Orient are/drinking whiskey in a nude bar."

Hit the egg nog as hard as you can and make your holidays Toadliquor horny.

Hipsters' Holiday Vocal Jazz & R&B Classics

Hipsters' Holiday: Vocal Jazz & R&B Classics

Various Artists

If you only get one multi-artist Christmas compilation, it's hard to top this one. But, break out your furs, because this 1989 Rhino Records bash is for the heppest cats only.

There's Louis Armstrong on Cool Yule; 'Zat You, Santa Claus; and Christmas Night In Harlem; Miles Davis on the cynical Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern); Lena Horne on Jingle All The Way; and Lionel Hampton on Merry Christmas Baby.

While Eartha Kitt purrs through the classic version of Santa Baby, Pearl Bailey tops the wish list with her Five Pound Box Of Money.

The Tim Fuller Experience transforms Silent Night into a cheesy night club number without pandering into parody.

Hipsters' Holiday is your invitation to the coolest Christmas party ever. It makes for quite a night, but not a quiet one.

Christmas with Johnny Cash

Christmas with Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

If you're worried about the state of your soul after listening to Mojo Nixon, follow it up with the voice I've always believed that God sounds like - Johnny Cash.

The Man in Black blends his heavenly vocals into a collection of traditional treasures including Hark The Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful, Away In A Manager, Joy To The World and Silent Night.

Lesser known lights include I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, The Gifts They Gave and Merry Christmas Mary.

The Christmas Guest, The Christmas Spirit and Christmas As I Knew It are the season's story songs of story songs.

Elvis Sing The Wonderful World of Christmas

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas

Elvis Presley

It wouldn't be Christmas without The King.

Given his gospel background, Elvis is as equally sincere on the religious numbers as he is on the rockers.

There are plenty of Elvis Christmas collections available, and the crown jewels of this one are I'll Be Home On Christmas Day, If I Get Home On Christmas Day, and the extended version of Merry Christmas Baby.

The girly shrieks on the live version of Blue Christmas from his 1968 television special also make it among the best early presents you'll ever hear.

Christmas In The Heart

Christmas In The Heart

Bob Dylan

How would you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island ... with Bob Dylan?

This 2009 release may be the most surprising one to ever hit the holiday record bins.

With proceeds benefiting multiple world hunger organizations, perhaps the most accomplished songwriter of all time takes on 15 Christmas classics.

Regardless of whether it's a religious standard such as Hark The Herald Angels Sing or a playful Winter Wonderland, Dylan croaks through them all in his late-career voice and, somehow, it works.

The most astonishing moments are the opening Here Comes Santa Claus, the Cajun-flavored Must Be Santa and the tropical Christmas Island, if for no other reason than you can't believe it's Bob Dylan singing these songs.

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag

James Brown

James Brown has a Christmas list for Santa and it's not filled with frivolous requests.

He delivers this 16-song card with a message that's not always an easy one to hear. He's appreciative for all his fans have done for him, but he wants the love spread to everyone.

When he opens with Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto, he means it.

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag comes with all the funk/blues trimmings you would expect, and it's a reminder that the soul of Christmas doesn't come from a department store.

Take heed to the Godfather of Soul, "Let's make this Christmas mean something this year."

Blue Yule

Blue Yule

Various Artists

Break out the guitars, harmonicas and pianos for this smorgasbord of both kinds of blues: those that make you feel better and those that make everyone else feel worse.

This aural shopping bag includes legends such as Louis Jordan (Santa Claus, Santa Claus), John Lee Hooker (Blues For Christmas) and Lightening Hopkins (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year).

Sonny Boy Williamson delivers the one of the best of the 18 songs with Santa Claus in which he pulls out all of his baby's dresser drawers in search of his presents.

Some Christmases are happy. Some are sad. These blues go with either.

Little Steven's Underground Garage
Presents Christmas A Go Go


Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Christmas A Go Go

Various Artists

Keith Richards' cover of Run Rudolph Run makes this worth searching out no matter what else is on it.

But, this is a Little Steven production, which means plenty of psychedelia from the Underground Garage with loads of guitar ribbons, girl group bows and stocking stuffer surprises - including Bob Seger's Sock It To Me Santa, Darlene Love with the E Street Band on All Alone On Christmas and Soupy Sales' Santa Claus Is Surfin' To Town.

There's also blues, hot rods, British sounding Santas, and even one from Joe Pesci (the hilarious If It Doesn't Snow On Christmas).

By all means, dig this Christmas A Go Go.

'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets

'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets!

Los Straitjackets

Los Straitjackets prove once again that nearly any song can be ridden onto a wave of surf guitars and that sometimes Santa wears a Mexican wrestling mask.

This 13-song instrumental collection from 2002 includes Here Comes Santa Claus, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty The Snowman and, of course, Feliz Navidad.

Los Straitjackets put another present under the tree in 2009 with Yuletide Beat.

Cowabunga Christmas time!

We Three Kings
Christmas Favorites


We Three Kings Christmas Favorites

Rev. Horton Heat

When the Rev (Jim Heath) decided to make a Christmas album, he debated playing it straight with his own brand of guitar chaser or twisting the tunes for adult ears only.

Ultimately, Rev. Horton Heat rode the former route to holiday royalty on this 2005 release. The trio rips through 13 familiar favorites with plenty of psychobilly solos.

The shiniest ornaments are Frosty The Snowman, Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Run Rudolph Run.

Billboard Rock 'n' Roll Christmas

Billboard Rock 'n' Roll Christmas

Various Artists

Cheech & Chong's Santa Claus And His Old Lady is the stoner Christmas classic and reason enough to have this compilation.

"A little for Santa, a little for the reindeers, a little more for Santa."

Queen, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, The Beach Boys and the Dave Edmunds Band also add to the rock 'n' roll revelry.

Billy Squier, Weid Al Yankovic, Foghat, Canned Heat, and The Kink's Father Christmas tie the bow on the collection.

Sprinkle this magic dust liberally.

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

Shelby Lynne

I readily admit to having a crush on Shelby Lynne and her work after 1999's I Am Shelby Lynne.

I've purchased everything she's put out since and, while nothing has topped I Am Shelby Lynne, she's never disappointed. Willie Nelson loves her too. She's a staple almost anytime he does one of his multi-artist projects.

Her Christmas collection is mostly acoustic, Southern drawl sultry and undeniably sexy in a subtle way.

"I'll bring the nog/You put on the log/It's a Christmas party."

What time and where? I am so there; because, you are so right, "Ain't nothin' like Christmas."

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Boy Crazy
Lydia Loveless is the little girl with the big voice.

She's the 20-something cowpunk princess from Coschocton who could become queen with her toxic tales of liquid and personal debauchery.

The critical legend that began with her 2011 debut on Bloodshot Records  - Indestructible Machine - grows with the new EP, Boy Crazy. Both were preceded by 2010's The Only Man.

Comparisons to the Furnace Room Lullaby twang of Neko Case are fair, but she never went Lydia-level wild.

Boy Crazy is five songs of bad love, longing, heartbreak and one psycho Lover's Spat.

All I Know is the long-distance affair that can't be satisfied and All The Time is the break-up that still maddeningly aches. The aquatic erotica of The Water makes it one of the sexiest odes to a former lover you'll ever hear.

The title track, meanwhile, trips on lust for an older man: "I know the situation's shady, but they used to say I was just boy crazy."

Nonetheless, all pale beside Lover's Spat, which Loveless wrote for the Dead Girlfriends (her sister's band) and in the liner notes thanks them for "letting me take it."

There hasn't been a one-nighter go this wrong since She's Insane by the Favors. But instead hiding in the bathroom, he's "running around naked by the side of the road."

Loveless purrs, "When the cops get called you can hide in the closet or behind my back/Oh, why don't they understand it's just a lover's spat?"

This time out the band includes guitarist Todd May, drummer Nick German (replacing her father Parker Chandler), guitarist Jay Gasper and bassist Ben Lamb - Loveless' husband and formerly of the X-Rated Cowboys. The cover art is by Columbus' former king of the Sovines, Bob Ray Starker.

It all adds up to an irresistible tease before a planned full-length release entitled Somewhere Else in February 2014.

If this EP is any indication of what's coming, it'll be another reason to go Lydia Loveless crazy.


To All The Girls ...
For his second release of 2013, all the honeys make Willie Nelson and Trigger sound that much sweeter on To All The Girls ... a collection of country, crooners and gospel with a nod to his 1984 hit with Julio Iglesias.

Like his earlier effort this year, Let's Face The Music And Dance, the now 80-year-old Willie stays mostly mellow on this 18-song set of variety show duets that occasionally edges towards over-orchestrated.

His partners range from Rosanne Cash to Alison Krauss to Emmylou Harris, as well as less famous singers such as Melonie Cannon, Lily Meola and Tina Rose.

Some of the songs - Dolly Parton on From Here To The Moon And Back and Sheryl Crow on Far Away Places - are most notable for their understated co-starring performances.

The brightest highlights come from Miranda Lambert on She Was No Good For Me, Wynonna Judd on Bloody Mary Morning, Loretta Lynn on Somewhere Between, Mavis Staples on Grandma's Hands, and Shelby Lynne on Till The End Of The World.

Earlier this year, Lambert also claimed one of the top spot collaborations on the title track of John Fogerty's Wrote A Song For Everyone revisit to some of his most treasured works.

On To All The Girls ..., Nelson and his daughter Paula combine for a quietly haunting version of Fogerty's Have You Ever Seen The Rain.

Others appearing on the set include The Secret Sisters, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones and Brandi Carlile.

Given the endearing campiness of the original and Nelson's universal belovedness, this record is begging for a return by Iglesias and an all-star choir update of their hit by the all girls called To All The Willies We Loved Before