August 10, 2014 by Nils
I really wouldn’t have ever known about this album if it wasn’t for my dad and a tapedeck about twelve years ago. We were going through old audio cassettes we had sitting inside our Victrola cabinet (literally a stereo cabinet made out of the hollowed body of an old Victrola), when, here was this cassette with an alligator on it.
“What’s this one, Dad?” I asked him. “Oh, that’s a fun one,” he said. “Christmas blues.”
So we took it out and popped it in the tape player, and I was hearing a whole side of Christmas music that I hadn’t heard before: blues, and Delta blues at that. The closest thing I’d experienced to what I was hearing on this album was probably Mavis Staples’ “Christmas Vacation,” but I was pretty well hooked on the sound at that young age.
But sadly, the Alligator Records collection fell silent in our household. The main reason was that we really didn’t have a working tapedeck anymore (we no longer had one in any of our vehicles after Dad traded in the old Ford Ranger for a Sport Trac, which, to its credit, had a 6-CD changer and a killer stereo system, and the one on the stereo in the house crapped out), so that nixed our ability to play it. Another factor might have been that Mom didn’t like it very much (she doesn’t like blues very much, and had an issue with “Santa Claus Wants Some Loving”–now that I’m older, I get it, but it’s a great song nonetheless). So that tape, which is probably floating around in my closet back in Virginia, went quiet.
Fast forward to now; I’m in my early 20s and living on my own, and feeling like I could do with a new Christmas album to cheer up the apartment. Then, an idea: was that Alligator album still around? Yes, yes it was, and I could get it on mp3. And now it’s back. And it’s great!
To give you an idea of what you get on the Alligator Records Christmas Collection, you have 14 tracks of pure fun. I won’t necessarily give you a rundown of all the tracks (I am finishing this post very late!), but I will say that the whole album is a barrel of fun from beginning to end. Songs range from the nostalgic (“Christmastime in the Country” by Kenny Neal, “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” by Charles Brown, and “Christmas on the Bayou” by Lonnie Brooks, among others) to the really bluesy (“Lonesome Christmas” by Son Seals), to the sad (“One Parent Christmas” by Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women), to the just plain fun (“Deck the Halls with Boogie-Woogie” by Katie Webster and the infamous–in our house, anyway–“Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ ” by Tisnley Ellis). It’s a solid album, and though I’m posting this now in August (though I put the review together initially in December last year–woops), it’s an album that definitely deserves a listen. Plus, it’s great for a Christmas party if you want an eclectic playlist.