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JD McPherson’s ‘Socks’ Tops the List of No Depression’s Guide to Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck

[No Depression]

The holidays are here again, and some of our favorite roots artists have gotten in the spirit this year by releasing new albums of music for the season. By and large, they’re not content to rehash the classics, either. They’ve written new songs to capture what Christmas feels like in 2018, carols for the here and now. Some are lighthearted, and some are … not. But they’re all from the heart, and it’s great to have an expansion of options for your holiday soundtrack as you shop, wrap, trim the tree, write your cards, and drink your eggnog.

Here, collected in one place for your convenience and merriment, are our reviews of some of this year’s roots music holiday releases.

JD McPherson – Socks

On “Socks,” the title track to his Christmas LP, JD McPherson sings out every child’s most feared Christmas morning moment:

Pick out a gift from mom to me, bring it to my ear / Give it a little shimmy-shake and what do I hear? / Socks! / This is the worst gift I ever got!

Socks in a box from mom, socks in a stocking from Santa. It’d be a terrible reality, but as a Christmas-themed tune, it’s great fodder for constructing a wry track. And McPherson nails it, lamenting over a melody evocative of the closing sequence to Elvis’ “Trouble,” “Santa, why did you let me down?”

In the time between the Buddy Holly-meets-Little Richard style of his 2010 debut Signs and Signifiers and the Link Wray-inspired garage psych on last year’s Undivided Heart and Soul, McPherson has become a wittier, punchier lyricist. On Socks,McPherson maintains that deft verbal touch while throwing it back to his musical roots. The end result is an old-fashioned rock-and-roll album that’s fun to listen to when spreading Yuletide cheer and still maintains its charms when being absorbed on a fall day when it’s 64 degrees outside.

“Bad Kid” works as a tale of a kid on Santa’s naughty list or as a nod at the Beatles’ “Bad Boy,” while “Hey Skinny Santa” repurposes “Hey Good Lookin’” to describe just how Mr. Claus packs on the pounds. “Holly, Carol, Candy and Joy” is a real gem, a teasingly lecherous tale of keeping warm in the winter months. McPherson closes the album with “Claus vs. Claus.” Ascendant talent Lucie Silvas plays the part of Mrs. Claus on a sly, romantic duet about the strain Christmas Eve preparation takes on the Kringles and wrapsSocks up nicely.

McPherson may sing “Why’d you waste the paper on a lousy pair of socks,” but unlike that dreaded present, his Socks is a gift worth receiving.

Jim Shahen

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