David Massengill

The Christmas That Santy Claus Froze

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As on another of his self-released CDs, Stories and Songs, David Massengill here mixes spoken word tracks, apparently recorded recently, with songs he has dug out of his archive. Although the longest track, the title story "The Christmas That Santy Claus Froze," touches on a holiday theme, and another, "The Boy Who Doubted Santy Claus," does as well, this is not a Christmas album on the whole. In his stories, Massengill ranges from tall tales to family and historical reminiscences ("A Mother's Advice" is one of his readings of an actual antique document, in this case a letter from a 19th century mother to her son trying to dissuade him from marrying an unacceptable fiancée), with lots of rural humor thrown in, particularly when it comes to "Edsel Outsmarts Socrates." Massengill devoted several tracks on Stories and Songs to anecdotes about dulcimer maker Edsel Martin, and he retells some here along with new ones. The songs interspersed with the stories are not among Massengill's best, but he is such a wit and a wordsmith that even his lesser efforts are highly entertaining, and these ones share some of the qualities of his stories with, for instance, both the song "Ginger Snap" and the story "Heaven" touching on the subject of dogs. Sometimes the recording quality on the songs is primitive (one track, "Hatfield's Revenge," for instance, comes from his 1987 home cassette release, The Kitchen Tape), but the performances are spirited, especially the free-associative "Diary of a Mild Mannered Schizophrenic," which has some of the flavor of Bob Dylan's early comic songs, one of which it references. The odd man out on the album is Massengill's faithful cover of Phil Ochs' allegorical "Crucifixion," a song far more serious than anything else on the CD. But this is a collection of odds and ends, and in that sense, nothing would be out of place, as long as it was unusual, as the Ochs song certainly is.