By Kyle McCraw
Billy Bob Thornton and his new band have been busy this year, not only releasing a double disc debut, but also following with this Christmas album less six months later. And, even though a largely unheard of band releasing a Christmas album seems like a bad idea, there are some nice original songs here that fall somewhere in the realm of country – with some honky tonk, rockabilly, and balladry. Thornton’s voice, while not necessarily powerful, is distinct enough to be enjoyable throughout most of the proceedings, and he’s definitely has the twang for it.
The upbeat opener, “My Dreams of Christmas” (about a kid that Santa always seems to skip) and “Slower than Christmas” (which opens with “Dysfunctional belles, dysfunctional balls”) are darkly funny sort of anti-Christmas songs that would probably find appeal from anyone who grows tired of the normal holiday fare, but their best original is the sad prison song, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas.” That and their cover of John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” are the best offerings. While the cover of John and Yoko’s “Happy X-mas (War is Over)” has it’s moments, the rest of the traditional holiday songs here are either too predictable or too different, but not terribly compelling (“We Three Kings of Orient Are” is probably the worst of the latter.). Aside from “Blue Christmas,” they also feel out of place with the less than cheerful nature of the rest of the album.
If this had been a five or six song EP with the best songs included, it might have been a nice listen, but even with it’s running time just over thirty minutes, it drags too much as is. Of course, you could always get on iTunes and make that EP. It might be the antidote to holiday radio. If I spend too much time in Wal-Mart, I might have to try it myself.