Braun and Brains Music (label)
04 December 2020 (released)
20 November 2020
Is that actually Christmas around the corner?!? With new COVID restrictions every week making the holiday season less and less conducive to gatherings, it's hard to imagine what the day will look like this year. But the Christmas spirit is indomitable. In one way or another, with stacks of deliveries and zoom call gatherings, we will celebrate like we always have. Christmas is this amazing yardstick of how life has changed and yet our little idiosyncratic traditions remain. Music has and will always be at the core of that.
Vancouver-based blues-rock singer Norine Braun has cooked up a Christmas album during her time in quarantine that offers up several swingin' new holiday-tinged tracks and peppers in her rowdy take on some old chestnuts. The veteran songstress' new tracks frame the season in a new way, shirking the traditional style much in the way rock n roll originally came in and rebranded the idea of Christmas by the likes of Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley. December Falls encapsulates the whole period of transition that comes with the new year, not just the day itself. God knows we're all ready for a transition!
The first track out of the gate 'Solstice (The Day the Sun Stands Still)' waxes about frosting landscapes and cozy rituals over jazz fusion chord changes. Smooth saxophone and a fluttering flute texturize Braun's ode to the shortest day of the year. Braun's Metis ancestry brings a holistic theme to the track appreciating nature's cycles and rejoicing in the coldest season of the year. Like stepping into a warm lodge and downing a couple of rum toddies, the album quickly takes on a tropical feel with Braun's Caribbean take on 'I Saw Three Ships'. Steel drums and half time drums put everyone at ease, ready for a sunny and loose Christmas party.
A whirling organ and trembling guitar score 'Mistletoe Blues'. Snappy slap guitar shoots back and forth with a snarling harmonica. Braun kneads and bends notes putting some funk and feel into the season. 'The Winter After Elvis Died' uses the King's death as a touchstone to echo back to the weird, wild circumstances of Braun's youth when she fell terribly ill. The lyrics are expertly woven with rhymes snaking around and whipping back again. A Clarence Clemons-style sax solo full of bravado and big soul carries out this Broadway-ready tune to the end. Roadhouse blues-rock tells the tale of the notorious 'Poinsettia Pearl', a barroom swinger.
Braun performs classics like 'Blue Christmas', 'O Christmas Tree/Oh Tannenbaum', Silent Night, and newer classic Wham's 'Last Christmas' with her same saucy flare. The title track opens with her a Capella singing to a windy gust, sinking smoothly into a textural, moody rock number with Johnny Marr guitars. Wistful without being too dour. 'Put a Wreath on it Blues' puts that Chicago swing on classic Christmas tropes. Braun's voice verges on a grind to match the railway harmonica.
Braun admirably performs enough Christmas standards to qualify it as a full-fledged Christmas album but the high points of the album are her original tracks. The new takes on the season not only give us new material for the holiday but reinvigorates the genre like songs like 'Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin' or 'Christmas All Over Again' do. This is an irregular Christmas, infuse it with some ballsy, bluesy rock n roll.