Black Music Matters Festival

Shelby Lynne

Merry Christmas! – 2010 (Everso)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Along with nine familiar Christmas songs, Shelby Lynne added two new original holiday songs of her own to this "Merry Christmas!" release. The first, Ain't Nothin' Like Christmas, is an acoustic rocker that borders on Brian Setzer rockabilly territory. The other, Xmas is another acoustic song. This time, however, Lynne gets jazzy and soulful, rather than rocking out. Lynne's vocal for the latter sounds a whole lot like Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Its lyric also seems to be autobiographical because she sings the Christmas blues, all the while talking about drinking and being reminded of all the gifts her dad never opened.

Lynne doesn't try to reinvent popular Christmas songs and carols with unique arrangements on this new album, thank goodness. Nevertheless, she does intentionally take a more stripped down instrumental approach to her material. Both Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer lean upon prominent acoustic jazz guitar, while Silent Night utilizes electric guitar - albeit gently finger-picked.

To her credit, Lynne doesn't become overly pious with the religious material, namely O Holy Night and Silent Night, the way some artists can. She sings these sincerely, yet in the same smoky, Dusty Springfield-esque voice we've come to know and love. She respects the holy subject matter, without ever trying to fake being an angel. This song set provides holiday music for quiet nights before Christmas or hangover-spoiled Christmas mornings. But no matter what way you use it, "Merry Christmas!" has Shelby Lynne's unique fingerprint on it.