The Alligator Records Christmas Collection

Various Artists
The Alligator Records Christmas Collection

If you’re not already familiar with the great roster of artists on the Chicago-based independent blues label Alligator Records, this 1992 collection of their then-notables is a perfect place to start. Koko Taylor kicks off the festivities singing “Merry, Merry Christmas” with her smoky sultry voice wailing into the choruses under a grinding church organ and some amplifier tube-burning guitar leads. Kenny Neal’s throaty croon follows some honking harmonica blasts on the timeless “Christmas Time in the Country” and then Lil’ Ed & The Blue Imperials spike the punch with an upbeat foot-stomper and guitars that lean hard and heavy on the bottleneck-slide licks. Charles Brown puts his slick West Coast piano-boogie imprint (and sings smoother than eggnog) on the shoe-shuffling strut of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus.” Lonnie Brooks cooks up a spicy rocker with “Christmas on the Bayou,” a swampy chooglin’ number that would make Creedence Clearwater Revival proud. If they handed out a prize for the best reworking of a classic carol, it would have to go to Elvin Bishop for his Hendrix-inspired instrumental version of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

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