Stubbys House of Christmas       
 
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1.  Best Kind Of Friend
2.  Winter Wonderland
3.  The Christmas Song
4.  It Won't Cool Off
5.  I'd Like You For Christmas
6.  What Will Santa Claus Say?
7.  Christmas Island
8.  Santa Baby
9.  Baby, It's Cold Outside
10. Christmas In Prison
11. Silent Night
12. Christmas Time Is Here

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Christabel & The Jons are kickin' it old school, with a Depression era Swing sound that I found most closely resembled a cross between The Squirrel Nut Zippers and Leon Redbone (toss in a bit of Dave's True Story for spice).  Combining Pop, Folk, Blues, and Hot Jazz, this band has been playing their unique blend since 2005.  Lead singer Christa DeCicco sings with a smooth and easy voice, fully dripping with the requisite charm, humor, and sex appeal to make the whole thing work. 

Christabel plays her part very well--one part dreamy, one part flirty--as she virtually whispers sweet nothings to her enchanted listeners.  Seth Hopper provides much of the exotic instrumentation--ukelele, accordian, etc--while he and the Kelly brothers (Johnathan and Fred) arranged and produced the album.  And they deserve much appreciation for an album that is wonderfully produced.  There are many different sounds and styles offered on "The Christmas Album", but it never sounds "busy", forced, or out of place.  Everything flows easily (and that's not easy to do).

Few do flirty better than Christabel does here.  From the moment she sings her first line in "Best Kind Of Friend", you can practically see yourself on the dance floor with the girl who will bring her lips ever so close to yours only to turn away in perfect time with the music.  She's smiling as she does this, in a perfectly good-hearted way.  And so are you.  You're both enjoying this dance immeasurably.  "Winter Wonderland" and "The Christmas Song" follow in much the same Speakeasy motif.  Things get a little spicier in the marvelous "It Won't Cool Off", which is done in an easy jazz rhythm with just a touch of Hawaiian guitar.  And then, finally, snuggling next to the fire, there's a little more heat as Christobel purrs a perfect "I'd Like You For Christmas".  You begin to believe this is the moment.  But, once again, she pulls away at the last moment, bounding into the Louis Prima classic "What Will Santa Claus Say?"  This one is straight swing and a great choice from the band. 

From there, Christabel & The Jons strike a fine line very well--bringing just enough camp to "Christmas Island" and "Santa Baby" without going so far in that direction as to destroy the mood.  Throughout the entire album, in fact, you get the sense that they know right where the line is and they are going to walk you right up to it before taking a step back.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is as fun and flirty as it was always meant to be.  The band shows an altogether different side of their obviously limitless versatility, tackling John Prine's "Christmas In Prison".  Although they pull it off rather well, it would've been a braver choice a few years back.  In recent years, it's been covered far too frequently; and it's a difficult song to bring something new to.  "Silent Night" is done up in an almost waltz-like arrangement--a nice fresh approach that seems to bring us back to where we want to be, about to kiss the girl.  In closing with an instrumental, beautifully performed, of "Christmas Time Is Here", it feels like the curtain closing...on a kiss, the way it does in all those great old movies.

Christabel & The Jons "The Christmas Album" is full of promises ultimately fulfilled.  It's at once a retro pastiche and something totally modern.  It is fun and fresh and easy, suitable for almost any kind of Christmas setting or mood.  This record is the mittens warming your hands on a cold winter's day and the hot chocolate taking the chill off your winter sledding.  Christabel is Donna Reed, you are Jimmy Stewart, and it truly is a wonderful life.   

 


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