Like many of you, The Fire Note is always looking for some quality new Christmas music around this time of year. Depending on your taste it can be a little difficult to navigate the onslaught of releases but we found some albums that I think will make your eggnog go down smoother!
I know it is 2012 but this new packaging featuring The Rat Pack’s Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. is a must listen for anyone out there that has never heard these classics. It is one thing to hear them in the background on a Christmas station or even playing in a department store but this 16 track compilation gives you the full story and will instantly earn your musical respect. The Rat Pack deliver each holiday tune here with the true swagger that made them famous and it just makes you feel cooler having this record playing. Even though the songs were recorded in the late 50’s and early 60’s the music and presentation is still timeless and to be honest, I get a smile on my face every time Dean uses Ruddy instead of Rudolph – you just can’t miss with this record!
In somewhat a surprise move, Tracey Thorn followed her acclaimed 2010 album Love and Its Opposite with this Christmas album, Tinsel and Lights. The record features ten seasonal covers and two new original tracks. Thorn’s sultry voice is perfect for the Christmas tunes she selected here as it definitely has a hip playlist. One of the best songs she covers is The White Stripes “In The Cold, Cold Night” which is jazzy and fun while her version incorporates the smoothness of her past band Everything But The Girl. The same result happens when Thorn dives into Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and Sufjan Stevens “Sister Winter” as her confidence just pushes each track to the next level and makes them her own. Overall if you are looking for a more modern Christmas album for your collection Tinsel And Lights should fill the need for something indie and fresh.
Looking for something completely different? If that is the case I would totally recommend seeking out A Fiddler’s Holiday from The Jay Unger & Molly Mason Family Band. The duo are best known for their Grammy Award winning score of The Civil War series but here they offer a recorded concert that celebrates the winter holiday season. The group is accompanied by the University of Mary Washington Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dr. Kevin P. Bartram and presents some very non-traditional tracks. This is probably the very reason I thought this album was so good because it was not your standards and the level of musicianship is top notch. Clearly it still is more of a folk/bluegrass setting so if this is not your scene at all A Fiddler’s Holiday may not be for you but if you want to branch out a bit – Ungar and Mason will not disappoint.
Really – A Mark Lanegan Christmas EP? You bet! Talk about one of the grittiest Christmas records you will ever hear as Dark Mark Does Christmas tackles classics like “O Holy Night” and “We Three Kings” but also handles lesser known seasonal songs like “The Cherry Tree Carol” and “Coventry Carol”. What is great here is that Lanegan’s gruff and dark delivery comes to life as hits every emotional chord on these tracks and truly makes each song memorable. This is one of those Christmas albums that will pop up in your holiday mix and will be instantly asked by someone “who is this?” – that is the type of reaction I love to get from a record and easily one that I always want to own. Let’s hope for a full length and wider release next year!
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony