Artist: Loose Cattle
Album: Seasonal Affective Disorder
Label: Low Heat Records
Release Date: 12.1.2017
We don’t normally review holiday releases, but this one breaks all the molds and demands attention, much like that crazy uncle who constantly shakes up the holidays like his personal snow globe. The liner notes begin “from our odd, broken, repaired, differently functional, inherited, made and unexpectedly found families…to yours,” and Loose Cattle makes good on that promise. This country-influenced album boasts 15 Christmas hymns you won’t hear in Hallmark commercials, but—unless you’re a member of the Brady Bunch—I bet you’ve experienced some of it yourself.
Whether drawing from Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, standards or a couple of originals, this album celebrates real people, and real holidays, like the working man trying to get home in “A Truck Stop Christmas.” From John Denver’s self-explanatory “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” to the mournful classic, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” this album celebrates those scotch-and-soda or Alka-Seltzer holiday moments—no grandmas getting run over by reindeer here, no puppy-under-the-tree moments. It’s not depressing, it’s not funny, but it is very a comforting album.
An original, “Shepherds in a Parking Lot,” turns out to be a personal favorite, contrasting what’s touted as a “merry time of year” with the everyday reality: “that doctor gave you pills so now you’re numb but still you’re sick…There’s no wise men on the TV, no light in the East, no shepherds in this parking lot.” Another favorite, a cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family,” is worth quoting at length:
Carve the turkey, turn the ballgame on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog’s gone
Send somebody to the Quik Pak store
We need some icing and extension cords
A can of bean dip and some Diet right
A box of tampons and some more Burl Ives
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Loose Cattle is Tony Award-winning and TV actor Michael Cerveris and Kimberly Kaye (who has the better voice of the two), but honestly, this CD isn’t just about the music. It’s about Christmas.