A Gulf Coast Christmas - (Various Artists)
Have a bluesy holiday season with this 16-song compilation exclusively featuring artists who record for the Gulf Coast Records label. That includes label honcho Mike Zito who gets the ball rolling with the swaggering "All I Got for Christmas is the Blues," a lamentation of having to endure a break-up during the holidays. Zito is the only artist who gets two cuts here as the album closes with the oft-covered and Chuck Berry-associated rocker "Run Rudolph Run." Since these artists all picked their best for this compilation, everything here is a highlight, with some likely fan favorites being the big and brassy "Back Door Santa" from Jimmy Carpenter, LeRoux's imagining of Immaculate Conception on "Who Da Baby Daddy?" and the swinging Mark May & Miss Molly R&B burner "The Bluest Christmas." Even the Grinch-y cuts are fun, like "Christmas is Cancelled" where Thomas Atlas laments that the season's Three Wise Men are nowhere to be found. Some of the other contributing artists include Albert Castiglia, Kat Riggins, Tony Campanella, Diana Rein and Sayer and Joyce.
Tom Mason - Under a Mistletoe Sky
Mason's Christmas albums are very popular; this is his third one. Here the singer and multi-instrumentalist opens with the Cajun-flavored "Crazy for Christmas" before rocking into the slide guitar-happy title cut then moving on to the Latin groove of the Santana-esque "Christmas Boogaloo." Mason wrote or co-wrote everything here so you're likely not yet familiar with these tunes; grab a hot cocoa and cozy up with loved ones to get familiar with the jazzy "Santa Says Keep it Cool" but be prepared to get up and dance during the rockabilly romp of "Little Elvis King of the Elves," complete with Elvis-mimicking vocals.
Sweet Lizzy Project - And...So this is Christmas
This four song EP from the Nashville-via-Cuba quintet begins with the original cut "This Christmas I'm Not Coming Home." A reference to how Christmas is not a big holiday in Cuba, the band's original home, the song is a little bit sad and some listeners may relate to the point of tearing up upon first listen. Two well-known included covers, John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" and the Pretenders "2000 Miles" are not exactly joyous either but they are nice versions of the chestnuts. Never fear though, the band kicks into overdrive and good times for the EP closer, an original called "It's Christmas (Everything will be Alright)."
"Joyeux Noel, Bon Chrismeusse: A Holiday EP from South Louisiana" - (Various Artists)
Here's a collection of well-known Christmas songs performed perhaps as you've never heard them before, sung in French and marinated in Cajun and Creole joie de vivre. Included are Megan Constantin and Kelli Jones' sweet take on "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Courtney Granger's sensual reading of "Merry Christmas Baby" and a fiddle and pedal steel-driven version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Jamie Lynn Fontenot & Miriam McCracken (The Daiquiri Queens.) Also contributing to the EP are Blake Miller and Amelia Bierre, Sam Craft and Alexis Marceaux (Sweet Crude) and Corey Porche & Paul 'Bird' Edwards.
Tami Neilson - "Pretty Paper"
Neilson spent years traveling with the Neilson Family Band as they supported acts like Kitty Wells and Johnny Cash so it's no surprise that for her choice of a holiday cover she would look to one of the great country songwriters, Willie Nelson. While Neilson can rip it up pretty good, that's not what is called for on "Pretty Paper" where she is in songbird mode, issuing notes as pretty as the wrapping paper she sings about.
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