First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2008, Volume 15, #12
Written by John Metzger
Sat December 6, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
Christmas Cheer, the latest offering from The Boxmasters, follows closely on the heels of the groupís self-titled debut, which was issued this past summer. With so little time between efforts, no one should expect the group to have made any dramatic alterations to its approach. Sure enough, Christmas Cheer merely reinforces The Boxmastersí template of rugged country-rock. Much like its predecessor, the endeavor also is a flawed affair that pits Billy Bob Thorntonís plainspoken delivery against the rousing roadhouse ruckus that is raised by his collaborators. Yet, almost in spite of the outfitís deficiencies, it is a surprisingly successful affair.
Without a doubt, the title to Christmas Cheer is meant to be taken as a tongue-in-cheek gesture. Although the music is too feisty to become mired in its own sorrow, the sentiments that are expressed throughout the endeavor are anything but joyous. Thornton dutifully plays his curmudgeonly role to the hilt ó after all, itís one to which he is well suited ó while the rest of The Boxmasters supports his gruff delivery with an instrumental backing that packs a muscular, rockabilly-imbued punch. The band bashes its way, for example, through the spiritual We Three Kings, and with an uproarious air of determination, it forcefully renders Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerís tale of an unwanted misfit who ultimately saves the day.
The point of Christmas Cheer, however, isnít simply to revitalize a handful of well-worn holiday classics. Instead, The Boxmasters threads the traditional fare through a carefully constructed narrative framework that explores the sadder side of the Yuletide season. Beneath the surface of its truck-stop toughness, it seems, lies the beating heart of humanity. With tracks, such as a cover of John Prineís Christmas in Prison and its own My Dreams of Christmas, the collective paints a sympathetic portrait of the pain and anguish that some folks face, as hard times wash away a childís sugarplum visions and deepen an inmateís feelings of lonely isolation.
If the economy doesnít make a rapid recovery, Christmas Cheer may come to define this yearís holiday season. At the very least, it proves that with The Boxmasters, Thornton finally has found a comfortable home.
Of Further Interest...
Christmas Cheer is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box