BootLeg Betty

Bette Review From Nashville’s “Church Street Freedom Press”

Mister D: Nashville shows it has good taste in music!

Holiday Tunes Worth a Listen
Safe Bet on Midler, Subdued Sarah Worth Listener’s Green
Church Street Freedom Press, Nashville
Matthew Stafford

Photo Montage: Lucy Wilkins

It’s that time of year again – candy canes, fruitcakes, and yes, there are all those sentimental, if not downright corny Christmas tunes. Though I tend to bristle with ever step I take inside a mall or a department store as the instrumental elevator music turns from endless rounds of “Top of the World” by The Carpenters to “Burl Ives Best Holiday Favorites,” I have to admit that I was intrigued by two of this year’s new holiday music offerings: Bette Midler’s Cool Yule and Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong.

When listening to new Christmas music, one thing stands out – originality. Of all the musical genres available to a discerning ear, holiday music tends to be one most saturated with the same old songs. If the artist isn’t bringing something new to the album, it’s easy for all those “ho, ho, ho’s” to turn into “bah humbugs” where the listener is concerned. Both Midler and McLachlan bring originality and unique styles to their albums.

On Divine Miss M’s Cool Yule, her first holiday music offering of her stellar three decades-plus career, Midler brings the big band sound to Santa. There are standard offerings to please the traditionalist out there, like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which is the only overlapping song between Midler and McLachlan’s new albums. However, songs like the Hawaiian-themed “Mele Kalikimaka” and the swinging “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” will keep listener’s hitting the play button on their new iPods this year. On “Winter Wonderland,” Midler is joined by none other than the “King of Christmas” Johnny Mathis. On a sentimental note, Midler has a new “Christmas Version” of “From A Distance,” a Julie Gold penned song she first released on Some People’s Lives about 16 years ago. Though I’m partial to Nashville transplant, Nanci Griffith’s version, there’s no doubt that Midler’s version of a song that poignantly deals with peace and war has earned its greatest commercial acclaim.

The subject of war and peace also appears on McLachlan’s Wintersong. The first track is the John Lennon classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. Though several artists have covered this song, McLachlan brings her angelic, somewhat haunting vocals to this version – complete with a children’s choir to back her up. Though McLachlan, a Halifax native, brings a more contemplative tone to this album, the songs that stand out most are her covers of winter-inspired songs from fellow Canadian powerhouses. Listeners will be sure to enjoy her versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song For a Winter’s Night” and Joni Mitchell’s “River,” another poetic masterpiece from Mitchell’s Blue album, from which McLachlan covered the title track on a previous album. The title track, “Wintersong” is particularly touching, with a very lullaby sort of sound about her Christmas memories of a loved one.

Bette Midler’s Cool Yule and Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong can be purchased from your favorite music store or online through iTunes.

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