You love the festive season but you’re sick of hearing the same old holiday dross. But you still want some cool holiday music to play at your seasonal shindig or just while hanging up your stockings. If that sounds like you, then here are a few selections from off the beaten path. They’re guaranteed to help your days to be merry and bright and with no Bing in sight (or within earshot).
Los Straitjackets – ‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets
Four guys dressed as Mexican wrestlers, masks included, probably isn’t the first image of Christmas that pops into your head. But their look belies their playing. Packed with tasty instrumental versions of such holiday fare as Hear Comes Santa Claus, Feliz Navidad and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “’Tis the Season for… Los Straitjackets” serves up Christmas favorites soaked in dripping reverb and riding on a one-horse open whammy bar.
You’ll love this one if: you wish you were surfing for Christmas.
The Dino Martinis – 50,000,000 Santa Fans Can’t Be Wrong
On the band original Naughty and Nice, Nicole “Babs” Brennan packs enough heat to melt an icicle. On Gravy Boat, pianist/organist and sometime singer Pat McGannon gives a hint of what Louis Prima might sound like loaded at a family dinner. More jazz bar hipsters than piano lounge lizards, the Dino Martinis are perfect whether you’re serving Christmas cocktails to your friends or romancing your favorite elf.
You’ll love this if: you love toe-tappin’ and finger snappin’.
Leon Redbone – Christmas Island
Listening to this album is like curling up by the fire with a hot cup of cocoa. The understated acoustic accompaniment to tunes like That Old Christmas Moon, Winter Wonderland and I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a classy underpinning for a voice that wraps itself around you like a blanket. A special bonus is Redbone’s duet with New Orleans keysman Dr. John on Frosty the Snowman. It sounds like the good doctor swallowed a little extra gravel before cutting his vocal track – the perfect complement to Redbone’s smooth blacktop.
You’ll love this if: Nothing sounds better than a hot toddy and staying home tonight.
Squirrel Nut Zippers – Christmas Caravan
From bluegrass to Dixieland with a bunch of whistle stops in between, the Squirrel Nut Zippers really know how to bring it home for the holidays. Carolina Christmas makes it sound like lying around in your underwear would be the finest way imaginable to spend the blessed season.
You’ll love this if: You want something different but can’t make up your mind.
Chris Isaak – Christmas
It wouldn’t be Christmas without crooning. And that’s exactly what you get on this seasonal outing from the coolest crooner around. If this one doesn’t put you and Mrs. Claus in the mood for… umm… trimming the tree, better check for a pulse.
You’ll love this if: Wearing a Hawaiian shirt puts you in the seasonal spirit.
The Alligator Records Christmas Collection
Santa has to cover a lot of ground on Christmas Eve. This compilation disc from Alligator Records charts the Jolly Old Elf’s progress as he heads out from Chicago and works his way south to the bayou. On the way he finds William Clarke desperate to deliver a gift to someone who didn’t even include him on her wish list, Katie Webster and Charles Brown with a little seasonal boogie woogie and poor old Son Seals who is just plain lonesome. Filled with wailing guitars, tinkling ivories and plaintive harp, this one’s for both the naughty and the nice (but mostly the naughty).