This surprised me, I hadn't thought about Blue Rodeo doing a Christmas album, but the results are pretty darn good. They have a good vibe for a warm, chestnuts glowing kind of tune, and have come up with a homey set. It should please fans, and provide a Christmas album for folks that normally wouldn't put one on.
As usual, you get a song sung by Cuddy, followed by one by Keelor. Guess who gets the angelic ones? Actually, they stay away from carols for the most part, choosing to do modern numbers, and even a couple of originals. It's an eclectic list; Keelor sings the Big Star number Jesus Christ, the edgy but seemingly straight telling of the Christmas story. Then he does Merle Haggard's hurting If We Make It Through December, one of the first mainstream songs to address the tough times some have to endure during the holidays. Keelor oversteps his vocal abilities by doing O Come All Ye Faithful, an odd choice given the rest of the songs here. He redeems himself with Song For A Winter's Night, from the pen of Mr. Lightfoot, who was the original inspiration for the group's sound.
Jim Cuddy can make anything pretty, and might someday consider his own full Christmas album in his side, solo career. He shows his ability to handle a beloved classic with Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and also tackles a tough, new song, Paul Simon's Getting Ready For Christmas Day. It's even bleaker than Haggard's number, with money woes and modern soldiers have Christmas dinner on a mountain in Pakistan. Cuddy's best moment is The Band's wonderful Christmas Must Be Tonight, a song that for my money should be much better known. His poor choice here is yet another in the endless line of covers of Joni Mitchell's River, which I know refer to as the "Hallelujah" of Christmas songs.
As for the two originals, Keelor's Glad To Be Alive is a winner, a good heart-warming roots number. Cuddy's Home To You This Christmas is a country one, saving up all his money to get back home to see his someone special, with some nice teardrop pedal steel licks. Watch for the special double-pack edition that includes the group's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 as well.