The well-known Christine Lavin, with 20 CDs issued of her own music, is presenting the second in a series that was started in 2010, the Just One Angel gatherum, with many returnees from Vol. 1 plus new join-ins, everything as top-notch as the first time around. In fact, the first thing you notice as you start out is that the engineering on each cut is absolutely pristine, three-dimensional and often verite. A second bonus is the fact that, except for one Portugueses traditonal track, everything is original, written by the performers themselves or in tandem with others. Traditionally reverent anthologies are all very well—I mean, Christmas goes back quite a few years, as do Chanukkah, and the pagan observations— but, man, after a while, can they ever get cloying! Not so here. The songs here are fresh and sometimes quite bouncy.
Others, though, are nicely introspective, Chelsea Boys being one, with its lightly jazzy trad airs and backing chorus followed by Light the Lamp, an interestingly Humanist invocation of the Jewish holiday minus the religious claptrap and almost approaching atheism, stopped short by the wistfulness of belonging and not belonging, remembering and not knowing. Bernice Lewis turns in Ho Ho Ho, kind of a modern Santa Baby turned on its head with a bit of a feminist Mrs. Claus who likes her naughties. Tom Paxton follows with the short and way cool primitivist My Christmas Guitar purposely imitating the kid who got an acoustic axe for Christmas and is struggling with it.
John Margolis turns in a quasi-operatic baroquely minded cut and Amy Speace gets torchy and sentimental while Tom Wopat and Tedd Firth follow behind in a more pointed song about people "freezing their asses off" and other joys on The Last Night of the Year, kind of a curmudgeon's lament that's simultaneously affecting and grin-producing. Don White takes a pretty undisguised leap at capitalism's throat (huzzah!) by savaging religion and ritual tangentially while criticizing himself and his wife. Pretty damned sly and funny, resolving in a hilarious swipe musically at the hypocrisy of just plain living. Then Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan tell the God's honest truth about the dreaded holiday fruitcake in an English/Celtic air playing musical chairs with what, instead of being eaten, may well become an indestructible cornerstone in the next skyscraper if all can slip out the back door without being caught.
New New Year Year kinda takes on Shelley Berman's old gig (Shelley did sing about meth labs, right?) after those other chuckle-inducers and would definitely be a Top O' Da List pick were Dr. Demento still around with his delightfully flaky show. Procuress Lavin (waitaminnit…doesn't that title have another meaning?) throws in a cool Yule story about an Xmas-born Hollywood star whom I'll leave nameless until you hear the ditty, but…got the idea on all this? Well, I have quite a few really cool-ass holiday discs by the Ghostly Trio, Gary Hoey, swingin' jazzers, Kevin & Bean, and others, and Just One Angel, V2.0 joins that estimable list of the very best, the stuff I return to year in and year out. It's that damn good.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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