In the 21st century, the sizable majority of Christmas albums fall into one of two categories -- those made by artists with a sentimental streak who love celebrating the musical and social traditions, and the cynics who enjoy putting a snarky smirk on songs of the season. Rodney Crowell clearly lines up in the second camp judging from 2018's Christmas Everywhere, which in its first song includes the line "The season starts in August now, we'll see you at the mall," and in the second finds him crooning "Mama wants a kitchen sink, Daddy wants a stiffer drink, Grandma wants us to cut the crap, Grandpa wants a nice long nap." But if Christmas Everywhere is short on traditional reverence, Crowell sure seems to be having a lot of fun sending up the holidays. He digs into a smoky R&B groove on "When the Fat Guy Tries the Chimney on for Size," dips a hint of rockabilly into "Very Merry Christmas," and generates a classic country shuffle on "Christmas Makes Me Sad." Christmas Everywhere is also the rare Christmas album devoted entirely to original material written for this disc, and if this material doesn't rank with the best songs of Crowell's career, he's always been a gifted craftsman and his level of quality control here is impressive. Even the most playful numbers generate honest laughs and find Crowell singing with sincere enthusiasm, while he and his studio band pick up a storm. And the hardscrabble Yuletide tales of "Christmas in Vidor," the lonely heartsick nights of "Come Christmas," and the sad nostalgia of "Christmas in New York" are on hand to show Crowell can write seriously (if unconventionally) with the holiday in mind and make it stick. Christmas Everywhere won't replace that Mantovani Christmas album your grandfather has been playing for decades at family gatherings, but if you're tired of putting Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family" on a loop for that party with your friends, Crowell and his pals will fill the bill with style.
Christmas Everywhere Review
by Mark Deming