Brimming over with Christmas spirit, exuberance and Rosie’s unique Seattle-based strain of humor and creativity, A Very Rosie Christmas serves up a widely diverse mix of original and classic holiday songs.
Beside her new husband Jeff Shoop and longtime producer Josh Myers, Rosie called upon friends (Damien Jurado), family (Brian Thomas) and alter egos (Sheila Saputo) to capture the conviviality and high spirits of the holiday season.
Standard holiday favorites (Christmastime Is Here , O Come O Come Emmanuel and Winter Wonderland) cozy up to playful originals like Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year? and Sheila’s Christmas Miracle. The best part is the way it all gels together perfectly, swinging easily from winsome to tender to reverent.
Not surprisingly, music lies at the core of Rosie’s holiday memories: “Most of my memories of Christmas are tied to music one way or another. Where some families have Christmas traditions involving certain foods or games hanging lights or acting out their own nativity scene, ours was always singing together on Christmas Eve. I just couldn’t wait to make a Christmas record and I, of course, wanted to do it with a big group of friends and loved ones.”
Track by Track
- Calling upon those Christmas memories, opener “Christmastime Is Here” abounds with dreamy evocativeness, its lilting movements only adding to the sense of Christmas past. A sweet guitar solo mid-track adds just the right sharp note to the softly drifting track. Following well is the new upbeat rocker “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year?,” a classic Rosie track celebrating the bliss of family and friends.
- The album’s only misstep might be the haunting Joni Mitchell song “River.” Thomas’ vocal is strong and pure as ever, but the string-heavy rendition lacks Mitchell’s sense of yearning. Granted, it is difficult to equal the original’s potency; the only cover I’ve ever really enjoyed is, shockingly, Robert Downey Jr’s. I know, you didn’t expect that, did you?
- A Very Rosie Christmas includes a few outstanding duets with brother Brian. Both “Winter Wonderland” and the trumpet-enhanced “Let It Snow” are beautifully arranged, and their vocal mix is as lovely as you might expect. A strong album standout is a shining, stirring rendition of “Silent Night,” a difficult song to change up successfully, as Rosie herself acknowledges: “This was another classic that everybody knows and can be a bit predictable, so I wanted to try going a different route to perhaps give it a bit of a new life and keep it interesting.” The Thomas route works in a big way. Reverent and pristine in its arrangement and delivery, you can almost feel the desert night chill in the air as you listen. Beautifully, powerfully done.
- “O Come O Emmanuel” succeeds nearly as well, and Rosie’s comments say it all: “I always hated this song actually. It reminded me of old men with bad breath singing it in church, so slow and labored, but after reworking it I came to really love it and I saw the lyrics in a completely new way that was really beautiful to me.” Hushed and worshipful, and no bad breath anywhere.
- Rosie’s originals blend beautifully with the classics. Instrumental “Snow Day” rings (literally) with energy and joy, and piano piece “Alone At Christmastime” acknowledges the potential loneliness of the season for some. Sadly, this tender track is marred by a strange ringing throughout. I LOVED “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” breathy and emotive. Alvin wouldn’t recognize his classic; you won’t miss those chipmunks for a second.
Thomas offers some lovely parting gifts in the form of “Sheila’s Christmas Miracle,” a radio sketch in the style of the Prairie Home Companion as performed by Thomas’s stand-up comedienne alter ego Sheila Saputo, and ‘Rosie’s Christmas Wish’, a warm personal message from the singer, calling the album her own Christmas gift to her listeners. This is one gift you will NOT be returning. Many thanks, Rosie.
A brief tour promotes the holiday album and dates are up on Rosie’s Myspace, where you can also hear ‘River’ and ‘Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year?’