It'd seem odd for an artist as willfully eccentric as Hawksley Workman to be putting out a Christmas album so soon into his career as a solo performer, but he gets off the hook because this is really more a seasonal album than a Christmas album. The typical overtly religious songs found on many Christmas albums are (mostly) gone here, and instead Workman focuses on the other things related to the holidays, like eating, singing, and meeting up with family. Some of them are so tentatively related to the whole holiday experience, in fact, that it's tempting to think of this as the third proper Workman album, but with songs written around the holidays. The opening track, "Claire Fontaine," is one such song, an ode to a paper-making friend's exceptionally fine craft, in which Workman worries that he might not be able to get the paper across the border when he goes home for Christmas. "First Snow of the Year" has a bouncy, childlike quality, completely suited to the song: that youthful longing for that first day of snow, putting on your snow clothes and diving headfirst into a snowbank. There's even a song here about how the common cold can actually be used as a good excuse for not going out into the cold. The only real nod here to the traditional Christmas canon is on one of the reissue's bonus tracks, "Silent Night," which is a fairly faithful rendition (though with a few Workman touches). That's not to say that he doesn't have proper reverence for the topic; his observations on the traditions surrounding the holidays are very touching, whether it's the family gathering detailed in "Three Generations," or getting through the Christmas season on a shoestring budget, like in "Learn How to Knit." The fact that he manages to do this without being sickeningly sentimental reinforces the fact that Workman is at his best when he turns his gaze to the small, even mundane things and finds their heart and beauty.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Carruthers