Christmas Jug Band
The Christmas Jug Band celebrates their silver anniversary with Uncorked, a rag-tag collection of originals and "jugbandizations" of seasonal favorites. After twenty-five years the band as swollen to nine regular members and four "special guests" playing everything from the standard guitars, piano and drums to accordion, autoharp, mini-xylophone, mandolin, washboard, clarinet, saxophones of all manifestations, jaw harp, and jug. Stylistically they are also all over the proverbial map with genres including various hybrids of jazz, rock, blues, and folk. The result is a very comfortable feel that finds you in the middle of this unorthodox family as they frolic in their mischievous merry making.
The leading track is "Santa Lost A Ho", a pleasant, perky ditty about the Saint Nick only being able to say, "Ho Ho", backed with a lovely clarinet and kazoo duet, piano, and guitar. Which brings up an interesting point. Although the album definitely falls into the "novelty" category, The Christmas Jug Band consistently avoid the easy jokes by steering clear of sex and foul language, making this album perfect for family listening. The one song that breaks this novelty-rule is their upbeat non-novelty take on "Silent Night" where everyone plays, creating a big, busy sound that is never cluttered. Other covers include "Santa, You Got What It Takes", based on the song "You Got What It Takes", "Lonesome Reindeer Blues", a bluesy rag-tag version of Freddie King's "Lonesome Whistle Blues", and a slappy, uber-jug and whistle version of the Marx Brothers "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas." Almost in the cover song arena is the inventive "Don't They Know It's Christmas" which ties in a few words and lots of music from Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and Nina Gordon's "The End Of The World" with an original, bluesy chorus about Christmas.
"Plant A Santa" is a humorous look at the practice of exterior holiday decorating set to a Hoagy Charmichaelesque piano tune. The piano and kazoo driven "Hey Santa" finds a very laid back Santa singing with Randy Newman vocals about the toys in his bag before the accordion lets loose with a scorching solo. "Ain't That Cold" is a colorful song filled with various stories of mean and stingy people set against a skiffle-string band with lots of jaw harp, honky tonk piano and copious amounts of clarinet. With vocals like the guy who sang "Conjunction Junction", "Santa's Workshop" bears a very homey feel with bells, harmonica, banjo, and squeaky elf voices to create a song for the entire family. And if your family is like mine, this Uncorked bit of unconventional holiday merriment with its unique blend of rock, blues, and backwoods folk is sure to hit the spot.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, December 2002.