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Various Artists

Bloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas – 2017 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Label holiday albums can sometimes be like office white elephant gift exchanges because there's a little bit of everything on the table. Some stuff you like, while other things may have been better left unwrapped. Nothing is particularly embarrassing on "Bloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas," but a few of these pieces are clearly on a higher plane than others.

The project kicks off on a high note with Murder By Death's straight and sincere reading of "O Holy Night." Ruby Boots' "I Slept Through Christmas" nicely hearkens back to Phil Spector's "A Christmas Gift for You" with its Wall of Sound production girl group production touches. The most country song included herein is "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas" by Zach Schmidt, which is as country sounding as its title suggests. "I'm drunk again this Christmas," Schmidt announces, "What else is new?" Kelly Hogan is exceedingly lovely on the jazzy throwback, "Blue Snowfall."

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages' "Papa Barrence's Christmas" is fun for a minute, but gets old fast. The weird production touches on Ron Gallo's "White Christmas" leave it sounding a little creepy, like a David Lynch film or movie scene. It may make you hope someone makes a play for it, rather than pick an unopened gift still left on the table. Oh, and "The Pagans Had it Right" by Devil In A Woodpile with its banjo and off-kilter vocal, is just plain annoying.

The most memorable song is "The List" by Ha Ha Tonka, which is a catchy, acoustic alternative little number that brings Wilco to mind, in the best possible ways. It's propelled by acoustic guitar, and is accented with whistling.

As gift exchanges go, this set of tunes includes more keepers than white elephant losers, which means it will likely induce little regifting.