Saw Mill Records/Vanguard
The Boxmasters are not your ordinary old-school country revivalists. Their self-titled debut, released earlier this year, proved that with songs like “The Poor House” and lyrics like “I’ll give you a ring/ When you give me back my balls.” Now Billy Bob Thornton and his trio are back with a holiday album, Christmas Cheer, that is mostly covers of other Christmas songs, but peppered with three tunes written by the band; and they are not your typical feel-good holiday tunes.
Opener “My Dreams of Christmas” chronicles what Christmas is like in a low-income home with an alcoholic and abusive father. “I asked daddy why [mommy]/ Always bumps into the door/ He said that she was nervous/ Not to bother him no more.” It also takes on the heartbreak of being a child and not having a Christmas. “[They] bragged on what a good little boy that I had been/ They said we did our best to give you a Christmas Day/ But you got screwed by Santa Claus again.”
The other two originals are not that depressing, but they are not happy-go-lucky either. “Slower Than Christmas” goes through a Christmas Day with “a hundred ignorant cousins,” while “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” gives a grim depiction of what Christmas would be like in prison.
Not everything is dour, however. They do a killer rockabilly version of “We Three Kings.” They also do great covers of “Blue Christmas” and John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War is Over).”
Christmas Cheer by The Boxmasters is actually a great old-school Christmas record. Yes, the originals are depressing, but their point is to give a little perspective on Christmas for those that tend to be forgotten. I think they nailed the point home. Throw in some great versions of classic Christmas songs, and you have a 32-minute holiday treat.
The Boxmasters: www.theboxmasters.com