August 1988 / Moosicus 2019
Humorous crooner taps in the spirit of Yuletide, with the Night Tipper chipping in.
Retro had always been Redbone’s schtick, since before Dylan’s remark brought the singer into public focus until his very last day in May 2019, but a Xmas album could be a nice digression even by Leon’s standard: it’s not easy to sound original in a context that’s cheerful by default. Yet such was this artist’s charm, and deep understanding of The Great American Songbook, that, in his delivery, even perennial favorites like “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” – let alone rarer material – feel fresh. Of course, there’s a twist to make it all even more interesting, a getaway and coming-back theme.
While the strings-drenched opener “White Christmas” isn’t easy to fully appreciate due to the piece’s seasonal omnipresence, the record’s title track and “That Old Christmas Moon” – the latter penned by Terry Waldo, whose piano, alongside the main man’s guitar, adorns the former – enrich the canon with much gusto. Outstanding as they are, though, the album’s pride of place must be given to an infectious reading of “Frosty The Snowman” where Leon’s duetting with Mac Rebennack (who died a week after Redbone) and letting the good Doctor’s vocals and ivories add the dry New Orleans juju to his juicy New Year’s magic, while “There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays” – a run from bluegrass to cajun and back again – doesn’t fall far behind.
If you’re tired of hearing Bing or Ol’ Blue Eyes’ voices on Yuletide, this disc – now with a couple of bonus cuts, including the calypso-shaped “Kitty Cats’ Christmas” – is one fine alternative