By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The first words sung by Josh T. Pearson on his Rough Trade Christmas Bonus: "Angels ... shit, OK." He gets it right the second time as he plucks the album's only accompanying instrument: an acoustic guitar. The minor blip is quickly forgotten as he makes his way through "Angels We Have Heard On High," the first of five classic Christmas carols.
The EP was recorded and released as a show of gratitude to Rough Trade record stores in the U.K., which chose Pearson's Last of the Country Gentlemen as their album of the year. It's only available as a bonus with purchase of the aforementioned LP, which has been met with such fanfare that Pearson seems to have forgotten his claim that Country Gentlemen might be his last.
Where Country Gentlemen is painful and sobering, Christmas Bonus relies on Pearson's charm, but it's still just as haunting.
On the chorus of "Angels We Have Heard On High," he omits the vocal and instead lets an unbridled guitar strum take the lead. He races through an a capella version of "Away in a Manger" and follows it with an eight-minute take on "O Holy Night." Like a bookend, "Silent Night," the EP's last track, begins with another false start, then meanders to its undefined ending. It's certainly not Pearson's most notable work, but it's full of conviction.