Tinsel and Lights
In a wonderful twist, Tracey Thorn has recorded a Christmas album that includes only one standard, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". The remainder of the album features songs by modern songwriters such as Scritti Politti's Green Gartside, Stephin Merritt, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, and Jack White, plus two Thorn originals. This refreshing approach expands the holiday menu with emotionally resonant tunes that deserve their status as new standards. Mitchell's "River" is practically there, having been covered many times. Thorn sings it with her usual class and understatement, reaching angelic highs for emphasis. Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas" follows a familiar Sexsmith path, playing as a well-rounded and thoughtful pop song in little over two minutes. The White Stripes' "In the Cold, Cold Night" vamps like a dirty blues, or as "dirty" as Thorn is likely to get. Randy Newman's "Snow" sits her down at the piano for a wistful moment, while Gartside's "Snow in Sun" lets Thorn put a bounce in her step.