December was a busy month for me, which left me little time to do much reviewing. I had hoped to get quite a bit done over the holidays, but instead I relaxed with friends and family. I think it was worth it, but it means working a bit harder in January.
If you’ve heard a country version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” one too many times this season, or if any other rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” performed by your grade school child/sibling/cousin/whatever will push you over the edge, then I suggest you pick up either or both volumes of A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa. With the selections of classic and classical Christmas songs performed by musicians who care more about the music than about cashing in on the season, these are Christmas albums worth owning.
In addition to the fairly comprehensive 60-year overview of Parton’s life, the book contains a selective discography, source notes, a bibliography, and an index – all useful tools for researchers. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 16 pages of plates of photographs of Parton at various points in her life. Unfortunately, only the most dedicated fans are likely to read the book from cover to cover.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have been putting the “oy” in a wide variety of hit songs since 1995. The band straddles the line between being a novelty act and true rock professionals, all with a grin and a good sense of taste. They have given the punk treatment to everything from show tunes to surf-rock to R&B, and now they’re showing listeners how much they Love Their Country.
The album begins with a treatment of “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” that stays fairly true to Garth Brooks’ original. The listener is momentarily confused and dismayed that perhaps Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have lost their touch. Fear not, for as the first chorus rolls around, the punk kicks in and begins the wild twenty-five minute ride through twelve of Country Music’s top hits.
One unexpected and beautifully incorporated element on the album are the bagpipes on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” They mesh effortlessly with the crunch of the electric guitars and enhance the vocal slides are distinctive to that style of music, which lead singer Spike pulls off quite well.
The inclusion of the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” is a treat. Although the original was styled as a country song, it already had a punk attitude that lends itself to the new arrangement. Someone has even gone and created an edited video with the Gimme Gimmes’ version of the song overlaying the original images.
Love Their Country is an entertaining album. It isn’t particularly groundbreaking or monumental, and neither is it intended to be. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have accomplished what they set out for: a collection of country covers that anyone with a bit of punk in their soul can enjoy.