Celebrate an Irreverent Christmas with the Lucky Old Sons: Album Review

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The Lucky Old Sons A Very Lucky Christmas www.luckyoldsons.com

Christmas songs are such indestructible chestnuts that even a fleet of (Mannheim) steamrollers can't fully destroy a carol's inherent charms and apparent mutability. So go ahead: Turn "Silent Night" into a ska song, or synthesize the balls right off of "Carol of the Bells" if you must; these songs aren't going anywhere.

Local juke-blues combo Lucky Old Sons aren't that perverse, but they are clearly having a good time taking a swing at a handful of Christmas classics and a few originals. That means bringing "White Christmas" to Hawaii with a gentle Polynesian beat and outfitting "Winter Wonderland" with a bit of stride piano. And it is only fitting that a St. Louis band so enamored with pre-Beatles rock & roll would cover Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run," done up here with some Johnnie Johnson-inspired piano lines.

Matt Davis leads the band on piano and vocals, and he walks a line between Presley-esque lip-curls (on "Blue Xmas," natch) and more straight-ahead crooning. Tenor saxophonist Frank Bauer plays fire to Davis' ice with a more wild, skronking tone befitting the band's '50s R&B-based sound. He can stretch out syrupy phrases like Plas Johnson or get honking like Big Jay McNeely, which can veer into atonality on a somewhat sterile-sounding recording that takes the Sons out of familiar live confines.

But its Bauer's sax that makes "Jingle Bells," normally a treacly and harrowing undertaking, a worthwhile endeavor here. Here, the saxophone acts as the drunken uncle to the piano's more pious parent. Not that you have to look far for irreverence on this disc, from the chintzy smiles and skulking scowls on the CD cover to the sly, sometimes leering originals.

Continue to page two for more of our review.

"Santa's List" takes the idea of St. Nick's "naughty" list and updates it for the web 2.0, complete with social-media shoutouts. Things get even more meta on "Merry Christmas from the '50s," which serves as a winking advertisement for the CD itself. The moments of genuine nostalgia -- always a complicated but key component of the holidays -- make songs like "The Ghost" a bit more endearing. On it, Davis flips through Christmas memories from childhood to adulthood, recognizing that something of that Christmas magic seems to recede with every year. A Very Lucky Christmas doesn't restore that magic, exactly, nor does it set out to. Rather, the bar band treats the material with just enough respect to balance the sarcasm.

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