Just In Time For Christmas
Stellar Cat Records
Okay, another one of my tenets of Christmas music is that the songs need to be big, sort of communal numbers that burst with merry bombast, delivered by slightly mad-eyed wholesome singers (Andy Williams) or great voices (Crosby, Sinatra) so assured of their talent and stature that they’ll sing about the joys of making snowmen or waiting for Santa with a totally straight face – and most likely an empty flask. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t usually like romantic Christmas songs – goddamnit, this isn’t about you and your stupid boyfriend/girlfriend snuggling in front of the fire, it’s about gaudy lights, gaudy ornaments, presents, and being around as many people as possible – and it’s cool, man. Which is one of my beefs with the Pam Tillis record, too often it tries to seduce and soothe when it should be manically bouncing off walls, covered in bows and mismatched pieces of wrapping paper and cocoa powder. Even if not all that, at least it could approximate some of the woodsy charm of Emmylou Harris’s Christmas record or even the surreallity of Kenny and Dolly’s seasonal outings. Unfortunately, this sounds for the most part like more modern, adult fare like James Taylor’s somnambulant Christmas album. Man, I hate that guy. It’s too slow and calm for Christmas, proper. Not only that, the production gloss is too thick and it smothers everything. That said, this record will most likely soundtrack some of the most kickass loft and cocktail parties in upscale neighborhoods throughout the country.
But, just like when that last present is found under the tree, so this record has a cool hidden treat – sandwiched between a snoozin’ version of “New Years Eve” and a heretical cover of Willie Nelson’s atonally awesome “Pretty Paper” – Mel fucking Tillis shows up for “Rockin’ Christmas Medley” to give his daughter’s band a good goose and they rollick through snippets of all sorts of Christmas awesomeness. It’s great, sloppy stuff that the whole album would have been much better served exploring further. Sorry, too adult for me. It will be all over the radio. Resistance is futile.
Pam Tillis: www.pamtillis.net