By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
This year's Christmas tuneage is mostly the province of roots-rock players. The "sort-of-legendary" guitarist Dan "Fancy Dog" Neale (best known as part of Martin Zellar and the Hardways), has put together Fancy Dog's Rockin' Christmas, a 15-song instrumental CD recorded down at Pachyderm Studio with The Honeydogs's rhythm makers, Noah Levy and Trent Norton. (Zellar lends and understated guest vocal to "A Holly Jolly' Christmas.") With tame but proficient performances, the tracks recast familiar melodies as rockabilly ("Let it Snow," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Hava Negala"), easy listening ("White Christmas," which is easy listening anyway), and mellow lounge exotica ("Christmastime is Here"). The surprise is that the genre-swapping works beautifully: Neale reminds us of how these songs, though now antiquated in folklore, are actually relics of the '50s (and, I might add, Cold War conformity and commercialism, but don't get me started).
For a raucous Christmas good time, though, you've got to hand it to the bumpkins of Trailer Trash. Their 21-track CD Hell, It's X-Mas is a true labor of love. Co-produced by Rich Mattson at Flowerpot (again), this disc is more naughty than nice--their use of "X-Mas" and the absence of religious songs is the first clue. Trailer Trash have a true country-music understanding of the contradictions of the holiday, as well as the ability to turn Xmas gloom into celebration ("Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This X-Mas," "Don't Believe in X-Mas," "Walkin' in My Winter Underwear"). The vocal on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is letter-perfect, while fiddle player Mike "Razz" Russell pens a pair of originals including "Bleak Midwinter Polka" and the concluding "(We Made it Merry) One More Year"--the latter explaining why these guys are doing this in the first place. If you're planning a Christmas party with a rock & roll slant, you need these two CDs.
On a miscellaneous note, some bands have recorded Christmas songs for 1997 album releases. You can't buy them yet, but they have been sent to all the radio stations. The award for inspiration and originality goes to Marlee McLeod: An original tune called "No Vacancy" could be one of her best yet, with a crystal-clear vocal and lyrics of yearning Christmas sadness. The award for loud fast rules goes to Mezzofist's obedient punk-pop shake of "Jingle Bells." (Extra kudos for not pulling the "Batman smells" bit.) And finally, the award for indecency goes to Vinnie and the Stardusters and their cut "I Saw Mommy Fisting Santa Claus," whose title pretty much says it all. (Simon Peter Groebner) CP
Trailer Trash performs its third annual "Hell, It's X-Mas!" parties on Friday and December 20. Special guest Dan "Fancy Dog" Neale joins them for the December 20 show. $2. Call 338-9491.