Holy Holly! Actually Good Christmas CDs

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The onslaught of mass-marketed holiday drivel cast upon music consumers is usually enough to make even Santa jaded. It seems everyone and anyone gets to throw together a collection of those old Christmas chestnuts. Beating “The Little Drummer Boy” into all sorts of ugly guises seems to have become a holiday tradition. But wait! Out of unlikely places comes some unexpected Yuletide cheer.

Holiday Hell Yeah! from Hawaiian ska rockers Go Jimmy Go is exactly the kind of irreverent smack in the chops that seasonal music calls for. Ballsy originals like “Holiday Movie Marathon” hang out alongside bluesy standards like “Merry Christmas, Baby” to create a blissful cause and cure for holiday hangovers.

More traditional but equally affecting are two releases with a Latin flair. Joy to the World from Columbian string-bender Juan Carlos Quintero and Guitarras de Navidad from Mexican-American flamenco master Luis Villegas might lean a bit in the overly tasteful, NPR direction, but the amazing dexterity of both guitarists should liven up any family get-together.

Carola is the Madonna of Scandinavia and her collection of Christmas fair, I Denna Natt Blir Varlden Ny, sung primarily in her native Swedish, is cool and endearing despite any language barrier. Check out the identifiable opener “Stilla Natt” for some honest holiday sentiment in these times of rampant consumerism.

From the other side of reality comes A Twismas Story from country dinosaur Conway Twitty. He narrates and duets with something called Twitty Bird, a cartoon voiced creature from the depths of Wal-mart hell. Nineteen chestnuts are roasted and burnt beyond recognition in what could only be marketed to folks in trailer parks in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Stick with the exotic this year and you will find some Christmas tunes worth celebrating, music of inspiration instead of music inspired by the bottom line. -- Darryl Smyers

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