red, green and blues

Santa Is A Bluesman Vol. 2 (Rollin' & Tumblin')
Various Artists

By Michael Campbell

For a repeated event to become a tradition, it must start strong. This is clearly the case with the Santa Is A Bluesman series, all two of 'em. Like its predecessor, Volume 2 spans the blues spectrum, and even nudges the envelope a bit. Unlike Volume 1, this recording is available on CD, which enables the inclusion of eight of the selections from Volume 1, those being:

"Christmas Celebration" (by Sam Myers and the Homewreckers), "Where's Santa Claus?" (by the Metropolitan Blues All Stars), "Christmas Tears" (by Lamont Gillispie and the Homewreckers), "Christmas Party '92 (Spike The Punch)" (by The Duke Robillard Band), "Winter Wonderland" (by Curtis & The Kicks), "Merry Christmas Baby" (by da Mudcats), "Blue Christmas" (by Screamin' John Hawkins & The Dippity Do's), and "Silent Night" (by Rick DeBow). These were the standout cuts from Volume 1, with the Metros' "Where's Santa Claus?" being far and away the most compelling composition and performance from both volumes. Although David Barrickman lends tasteful Hammond support to Rick DeBow's "Silent Night" solo sax performance, I prefer last year's unadorned version for its lonely stateliness.

This year's selections provide good company for the old. Tanita Gaines provides a chilling reading of Rusty Ends' tune "Cold, Dark New Year," ably performed by the Rusty Spoons Blues Band. The Spoons also offer a more festive shade of blue on the good-timin' "Black Silk Stockings." Blue Lou & the Accusations merge styles on "Santa's Gotta Boogie," with Chris Carero's growling vocals, and a roller coaster instrumental approach suggesting Chuck Berry duking it out with the Yardbirds. An unexpected contrast is delivered with the mellow jazz guitar work of Sam Holt, and Robbie Bartlett's sincere vocal treatment of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." More diversity is offered with Tyrone Cotton and Pen Bogert's simple, unamplified and effective rendition of "Christmas Time Blues."

This Volume 2 is a worthy successor to last year's effort, which stayed on my tape deck for most of the year. Scott Mullins' skillful blending of artists and material reminds us that the blues are not only timeless, but seasonless.