Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Who doesn’t miss the music the ’90s brought? It was heartfelt,
catchy, soulful and universally accessible — everything popular music
I assume Jon Lyle Williams and the Bravest Retreat miss it, too, because their self-titled album seems like an ode to the decade with a certain affection for their Oklahoma roots thrown in for good measure.
Williams’ voice is a husky and powerful one à la Dave Matthews (“Fall on Me”), but there’s a little Michael Stipe writhing in there, too (“Ashtray”). It’s an unusual juxtaposition, yes, but with the Blues Traveler harmonica bursts that string this 10-song affair together, it all makes perfect sense.
Nevertheless, Williams and his band aren’t necessarily constrained to the decade that brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen. “Burn” is a knockout, vintage Western ditty, and album closer “Spinnin’ Wheels” is a gorgeous power ballad with a timeless appeal. The latter would do Bob Dylan right proud. The trio’s best work finds the perfect balance of those ’90s harmonies and accomplished Americana instrumentation (courtesy of percussionist Daniel Tarbox and bassist Donnie Berry), like they do in opener “White Flag” and “About Love.”
This isn’t groundbreaking material, but something tells me it was never meant to be. It’s as comforting as a flannel shirt that never wears out its welcome.
Williams and the Bravest Retreat will hold a CD release party at 8 p.m. Saturday at Joy’s Palace, 300 E. Main in Norman. Admission is $5-$8. For more information, call 887-3474. —Joshua Boydston