Shelby Lynne – Merry Christmas (Everso) CD review
Christmas albums are not meant to be epic statements. In fact, all of the good ones are short. Elvis’ Christmas Album, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Ventures Christmas Album all clock in at around a half an hour in length – short, sweet, and begging to be played again. Shelby Lynne takes this mindset in putting together her first holiday outing, Merry Christmas, and it pays off. She serves up eleven tracks in a little over 30 minutes and it’s over before you know it. Typical of her original work, there’s some happy and some sad songs here, but nothing overstays their welcome.
The disc opens with a medley of “Sleigh Ride / Winter Wonderland,” showing off her Shelby upon Shelby layered harmonies. There’s a couple of light-hearted tracks in “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but unlike some artists, she never panders to the kids. Instead, “Santa” grooves with a fretless bass, while “Rudolph” has a bluesy guitar (and when she says “Oh baby, I just dig your nose” at the end of the song, it makes me quite jealous of that red-nosed dude).
Also of note is her take on the Charlie Brown “Christmas Time is Here,” complete with an oboe solo. In fact, almost every track has a surprise in it – a harmonica here, mandolin there, slide guitar – it’s kind of like making cookies at Christmas – you have the batter, now what other tasty things can you throw in it? Shelby does turn in two originals for the album, and they couldn’t be farther apart; “Ain’t Nothing Like Christmas” is rollicking with the chorus “I’ll bring the ‘nog / you put on the log / it’s a Christmas party,” while “Xmas” deals with the darker side of the holidays, with the line “Christmas makes me sad / Daddy’s bein’ bad.”
Then, there’s “O Holy Night,” when done by others it’s usually the show-stopper, all full of bombast. In Lynne’s hands though, she strips it down to the bare essence and sings it honestly. The whole album has a warm and cozy feel; you can imagine Shelby sitting on the couch in her fuzzy slippers, sipping hot cocoa by a warm fire. Perhaps that’s just fantasy, since Lynne is a resident of California, but we can dream, can’t we? An excellent addition to your holiday collection. –Tony Peters