Music Reviews

Various Artists: Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days Of Xmas – Album review

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Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days Of Xmas (Bloodshot Records)

CD/LP/DL

Released: 17 November, 2017

08/10

Bloodshot Records get into the festive spirit. Is it humbug or a sack full of goodies? 

Christmas and popular music have a rocky history; sometimes sublime, sometimes ridiculous, often vomit inducing. Once upon a time having a Christmas number one was a very big deal but, as interest in the charts has declined, so the kudos of a festive number one has diminished like the wine come Boxing Day. Record companies also used to get in on the act, using the season to be jolly as an excuse to issue a compilation of their artists slaughtering Christmas tunes. The most famous example is probably the now classic A Christmas Gift From Phil Spector. Now, Bloodshot Records have revived the tradition with their 13 Days Of Christmas collection.

Chicago based Bloodshot have an enviable roster of artists on their label and have built up the reputation of a company that actually cares more about the music than the dollar bottom line. So, here we have their first Christmas album, and it is bursting with sleigh bells, whistles, snow, heartbreak, joy, tragedy and great tunes, both covers and originals. All the joy and tragedy of Christmas are covered here. It opens with Murder By Death’s beautiful, straight, rendition of O Holy Night, which is a great scene setter and makes your feet tingle with the promise of a full sack. There is the rock ‘n’ roll Christmas of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Papa Barrences’s Christmas (this is a Santa with soul), the Nick Cave-esque ballad of Jon Langford and His Men Of Gwent’s Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray (which has great lines like: for those in peril on the settee), the folk of James Elkington’s Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand (which has the sound of a cold, brittle winter morning), the contemporary rock of Ha Ha Tonka’s The List (which has whistling. Every Christmas album has to have whistling), Devil in a Woodpile’s, The Pagans Had It Right, is a banjo jug band delight and then there’s the happy trails sounding version of White Christmas by Ron Gallo, that evokes the image of a cowboy making his way home across the prairie for Christmas. Enter the dark rockabilly of Dex Romweber Duo’s Dark Christmas that isn’t so much a Riders On The Storm as Santa’s Sleigh on the Storm. It’s a crazed drive through a stormy night. The Yawpers provide their more laidback rockabilly with their Xmas In Oblivion.

But the bleaker side of Christmas, the flip side that is heartbreak and loneliness, is well represented too. Ruby Boots’ I Slept Through Christmas is a classic rendition in the pop form of that first Christmas without the lover blues. Blue Snowfall by Kelly Hogan opens with an echoing piano like snowfall falling down. She has a beautiful voice, expressing the melancholy of a lonely Christmas. You can imagine her singing this in some Holiday Inn with the guests sipping martini, an open fire crackling and the band all in tuxedos and the singer singing softly at the mic that she barely holds with her fingers. The country of Zach Schmidt’s I’m Drunk Again This Christmas, skilfully brings to mind the need to get drunk in order to spend time with family at Christmas. And How To Make Gravy by All Our Exes Live In Texas, is the classic prison Christmas song that would bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened law enforcement officer.

The grooves of this record are cut from snow and tinsel and the CD version is made from the wishes of orphans, mixed with a ho ho ho and the tears of the lonely. It’s a record for life, not just for Christmas!

Thus review first appeared on Louder Than War

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