Oh Santa! is one of the most refreshing indie Christmas compilations ever, brimming with smart, mostly original roots rock tunes covering the seasonal spirit.
Highlights include “Holiday Mood” by The Apples in Stereo, teeming with Christmas bells and layered harmonies but armored with rock ’n’ roll verve and gritty vocals. Th’ Legendary Shack-Shakers pull off “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” like they hatched it; the band adds plucky upright bass but still captures the gruff minor tone of the original, employing a groaning organ and that Tom Waits’ dustiness of death rattled horns. And The Moaners deliver the most deliciously cynical song with “Something Funny in Santa’s Lap,” in which lines like “Merry Christmas, are you on drugs? Full of cheer, but not enough?” are actually the upbeat ones. Only “Lovely Christmas,” a duet by Jason Ringenberg and Kristi Rose, falls flat by trying to be scornful but coming off tiredly superficial—a true disappointment since Ringenberg usually pulls off dark nuance beautifully.
Weaknesses are few on this mix. Its strength lies with a careful three-way balance of holiday bitterness, tongue-in-cheek humor and authentic good spirit—enough, in fact, to power listeners through another gift-giving season. (Erika Fredrickson)