Christmas CDs

CHRISTMAS ON THE MOUNTAIN (Universal South) • VariousArtists
UNCORKED (Globe) • The Christmas Jug Band
DJANGO BELLS • The Gypsy Hombres

It's a little tricky getting in the Yuletide spirit six weeks out. I always wondered what it would be like to cut Christmas albums in the summertime, like so many artists do...but it's coming over me, I feel it now. (Quick, somebody buy me something!)

Christmas on the Mountain pivots on the Del McCoury Band in a couple of forms, and a host of cameos by Doc Watson, Tim O'Brien, Mac Wiseman, The Osborne Brothers, Cyndi Wheeler, and The GrooveGrass Boyz. It's dedicated to the memory of Gene Wooten, "The King of the Carolina Dobro Players." It's hella good clean fun with lots of high points. I like Tim O'Brien's "Bah Humbug" and "Christmas Memories" by Mac Wiseman and the Groovegrass Boyz especially, and a super instrumental version of "Auld Lang Syne," excellent. It's a definite stocking stuffer for the year that bluegrass kicked ass.

The Gypsy Hombres are an incendiary trio in the Hot Jazz style of Django Reinhardt, as the CD title indicates. This disc is ten smokin versions of an offbeat and entertaining bunch of Christmas tunes, mostly traditional but with a few exceptions like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker Suite, which really rocks. There's lots of fluid improvising in great humor from violinist/producer Peter Hyrka and guitarist Justin Thompson, as well as from Dave Spicher on bass. World class musicians doing their very whacked holiday thing, this was #1 at Tower here for a bunch of weeks last year. Check out our other Gypsy Hombres review, and their website, where you can (and you must) put this in your collection.

Wow!! The Christmas Jug Band includes one of our favorite artists, Dan Hicks. This is really different, these are classic Marin County knuckleheads, and the songs are super funny. It starts off with Paul Rogers' fabulous "Santa Lost a Ho" and rolls right into Dan Hicks scatting on "Santa's Workshop," love it! Oh, man, every one of these tunes is great, here's Austin "Audie" de Lone crooning his "Hey Santa." There are modern goofball Xmas classics all over this record. Got to have it, man! This is my personal favorite, but all three are must have discs for this Christmas, to spruce it up. Get it on, Scrooge, and buy some new Christmas music for the house. (I like Nat King Cole, too, but we need some New ones!) • FG

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