The test of a good Christmas recording is to find yourself able to listen to it when it arrives within a few days of Old Christmas (January 6). Just about any of them will sound good in early December. One that sounds good when your ear has dulled from over-exposure is a keeper. The Christmas CD from the Claire Lynch Band is a keeper. It arrived too late for this season, but the quality of performance is so high and so enchanting, listening to it straight through while taking down the last vestiges of the season was no hardship.
There are ten songs of the season here. About half are standards and the rest more-recent tunes. Among the former are a jumping “Home For The Holidays” with jazz-style electric and archtop guitar leads, finger snaps and fiddle. Lynch’s voice is tailor-made for the song, and her delivery is excellent. That’s followed by a slow, crystalline “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” adding contemporary stylings and touches to a mostly traditional arrangement. Later comes the clawhammer banjo-driven gallop of “Jingle Bells,” followed by a Django-esque rendering of “White Christmas.” The band also gives us a jazz instrumental version of “We Three Kings,” one that recalls in some ways John Coltrane’s cover of “My Favorite Things.” The album closes on a traditional “All Through The Night.”
In amongst them are several newer, lesser-known songs. “Snow Day” is a good-time swing tune on the joys of having nowhere to go when you’re snowbound. “Heaven’s Light” is about the spirit of the season descending on you, while “Scarlet Ribbons” is a miracle song. “In The Window” is a beautiful, traditional Hanukkah song. If this had only been here in early December. But, as with all Christmas wishes, there is always next year. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BW