Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Okay, this is just plain nuts. It's well over a month until Christmas, but the snow is already a foot deep on my lawn and it's still coming down. Certain preposterous neighbours already have their houses lit up, and I had one friend telling me how beautiful the snow was. And yes, people are playing Christmas albums.

I used to have a rule that I wouldn't start reviewing the new holiday albums until Dec. 1, but that's out the door. I'm blaming global warming or Trump or something.  When I see people sharing photos of themselves with egg nog, holding up this Clapton album, well, I guess I might as well give in and try to get in the spirit.

Everybody does a Christmas album at some point, and it's surprising it took this long for Clapton to get around to it. He's a natural, and sounds right at home, especially on the relaxed, warm-hearted material. His version of Christmas In My Hometown, an old Sonny James tune, has a little bottleneck guitar, fiddles and old-timey feel, and his friendly delivery makes it a winner. The Charles Brown blues favorite Merry Christmas Baby is a natural for him, and he digs in with an inspired version. Guitar fans get a few licks here and there, especially on a couple of modern tracks written by R'n'B singer Anthony Hamilton. Clapton came up with one original as well, For Love On Christmas Day, it's mellow and sentimental, fair enough. There's more life in the bluesy stuff really, and by far the best cut is the version of the 1950 Lowell Fulsom song Lonesome Christmas. The band really cooks, and ace drummer Jim Keltner kicks it up a notch.

I know Clapton was going for variety, and most of these Christmas collections usually do, but the difference between the blues cuts and the soft ones, such as the slow reggae take on Silent Night, is a little two drastic, the blues ones being so much better. So basically, it's a standard Clapton album; too much soft stuff, not enough blues. As Christmas albums go though, it's a cut above the norm.

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