Nick Lowe

Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family

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Easing into his second decade as a dapper crooner, it's little wonder that Nick Lowe has succumbed to the siren call that seduces every gentleman vocalist: he's gone and made a Christmas album. Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family is cut from the same cloth as all of Lowe's recent albums, cannily mixing up country, rockabilly, torch songs, and '50s pop, a cozy blend that's well suited for evenings snuggled up by the fireplace. Surprisingly, Quality Street isn't as sleepy as its predecessor, 2011's The Old Magic, a charmingly low-key collection whose pulse rarely quickened. That's not the case with Quality Street, which opens with a kicking rockabilly revision of the traditional "Children Go Where I Send Thee," a cut that rocks harder than anything on The Old Magic. It's not the only thing here with a swinging backbeat, either. "The North Pole Express" swings loose and low; "Rise Up Shepherd" skips to a sprightly country beat; Lowe strips away the excesses on Roy Wood's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" so it grooves along to a R&B beat and, best of all, there's a witty rock & roll revamp of "Silent Night" that is perhaps the biggest surprise on this seasonal platter. Elsewhere, Lowe does get dreamy -- on a lovely version of Boudleaux Bryant's "Christmas Can't Be Far Away," on a cheerful, sparkling take on Ron Sexsmith's "Hooves on the Roof," on a gentle version of Roger Miller's "Little Toy Trains," and on his own originals "I Was Born in Bethlehem" and "A Dollar Short of Happy" -- but the song that captures the slyly humorous spirit of the whole endeavor is "Christmas at the Airport," where Nick is snowed in at the airport on Christmas day by the "deep and crisp and evil" snow. It's funny, it's knowing; it speaks to the other side of Christmas, so it feels like it could be a Christmas perennial, a tart bit of counter-programming in a holiday season that can get too sticky and sweet. The same could be said of this roundly enjoyable seasonal selection.

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