Various Artists: An Americana Christmas

A collection that makes up for its lack of original content in whimsy.
Various Artists
An Americana Christmas
New West

An Americana Christmas gathers performances that intersect with Christmas, either directly or tangentially, under the baggy — and increasingly meaningless — heading “Americana”. (John Prine’s “Everything Is Cool”, whose sole claim to the season comes in the refrain, “It was just before last Christmas / My baby went away”, is a particular stretch. But it’s John Prine, and he’s always invited.) The collection alternates between stabs at absurdity and practiced sublimity, with the most successful entries finding some middle ground between the two: Nikki Lane’s “Falalalalove You”, Valerie June’s “Winter Wonderland”, and Bob Dylan’s polka riff on the Brave Combo’s reading of the Mitch Mitchell chestnut “Must Be Santa”. An interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation: the holidays are about reinhabiting memories, and the most distinctive memories here are imprinted with strong dose of whimsy. The collection’s parting shot, however, is mostly just sublime — Rick Danko’s wrenching vocal on the Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight”.

RATING 6 / 10