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Rodney Crowell

Christmas Everywhere – 2018 (New West)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell's "Christmas Everywhere" is a (mostly) melancholy collection of songs, with Christmas time as its setting. It's a strong set of carefully worded tunes, set to widely varying musical backings. All 12 tracks are originals, so if you're seeking out 'Rodney Crowell performs holiday favorites,' this is certainly not for you.

However, if you're a little tired of all the trappings associated with the winter season, you'll find an empathetic soul in Crowell. The album begins with "Clement's Lament," a western swing complaint that includes lyrical shots at mall crowding and street traffic during the Christmas season. "Merry Christmas From an Empty Bed" plays out like one of those tragic George Jones ballads where Christmas reminds one man of how he's become a failure. "Christmas In Vidor," which features Mary Kerr as an angry vocal partner, looks at Christmas through the lens of the bad side of town. Christmas in "Come Christmas" is a reminder to another lonely man that a loved one is out of his life. Crowell sings it over and acoustic, English folk music arrangement.

"Let's Skip Christmas This Year" is a rollicking R&B workout that proposes bypassing Christmas just once. It's not as sad as most of the album, but it's nevertheless a negative seasonal consideration. Even the closer, "All for Little Girls & Boys" with its children's voice choir, is a snarky track.

Rather than being a holiday cash grab, "Christmas Everywhere" stands up well next to Crowell's recent "Strong Ties" studio release. It may not always be a lot of fun, but it's always good.