Let’s get this out of the way early on: Dan Hicks’ music is an acquired taste, much like that of Bob Dylan’s voice or Antony’s eerie vocals. It just takes a bit to get used to. That being said, Crazy For Christmas, once given a shot, may be one the better Christmas albums to come down the pike in several years, combining classic sounds, a warm voice, and impeccable talent.
Speaking of Hicks’ voice, this time out his lazy vocals take on a very Burl Ives’ type vibe, crooning and cooing over the lyrics, and it works wonderfully well. From the toe-tapping of “Christmas Mornin’” to the scat-sung (complete with some accompaniment by Chipmunk-like background vocals) “Carol of the Bells,” Hicks’ uses his voice to its fullest, instilling this album with warmth like a big cup of cocoa after a snowball fight.
But Hicks’ voice is not the only star here. The musicianship is impeccable, offering up some great blues-flavored picking and grinning on “Santa Gotta Choo Choo” and “Santa’s Workshop” while “Old Fashioned Christmas” is just that, pleasantly invoking feelings of Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas holidays. It’s a formula that the artist works to its fullest advantage here and it works.
Other highlight include the fun and peppy “Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit,” “Cool Yule” which is touched with just the slightest touch of an island sound, and “Under the Mistletoe,” which is where Hicks’ reminds us that: “Under the mistletoe/ I’m telling you, Jack/ Is where you find the romance.” It’s hokey, it’s homespun, and for whatever reason, it works.
It’s that very homespun and natural rhythm to this record that makes it stand out from the rest. Much like Dylan’s Christmas release of last year, this is an album that is comfortably in its own skin, no matter how simple it may seem to be. But beneath that veneer of simplicity, something deeper is taking place and it’s something worth listening to. It may even be that Crazy For Christmas is an album that finds some airplay on your iPod far after the presents have been unwrapped.