'Tis the season to be overwhelmed. Every year I swear I'm going to start my Christmas preparations in September next year but instead it seems that I start even later. Having relatives back east, which typically involves having to get a package in the mail by -- well, by, like, now -- adds extra pressure.
Anyway I thought I'd take a brief moment here before my wife Victoria spirits me off to Hillsdale Mall to rave about a new Christmas CD, Jingle All the Way, by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. It's just brimming with utter genius, both the playing and the arrangements. The centerpiece is a 5-and-a-half minute medley that centers on "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" but includes six other tunes threaded in and around each other in the most brilliant, inspired way. And there are three songs (I think it was three) featuring Tuvan throat singers (the Alash Ensemble), one a duet with one of them plus Béla. It's just brilliant. (Now, I know Tuvan throat singers are going to sound funny to the average American -- they sound a bit like Popeye humming in the shower might -- but seriously, give it a chance, it's amazing stuff.) Other guests on the CD include Edgar Meyer on double bass and Andy Statman on clarinet. The last cut is a "solo" rendition of Joni Mitchell's "River" on which Béla plays the banjo and piano simultaneously.
These guys are just amazing -- so brilliant, so gifted, so much fun... this just might be a Christmas album I'll be playing year round for the foreseeable future.