Music review: Ana Gasteyer – ‘Sugar & Booze’

With Halloween now just a sugarcoated memory and Thanksgiving quietly waiting in the wings, it’s that glorious period when artists begin releasing new holiday albums.

While I’ll admit that my Christmas music collection is so extensive that I normally only get the opportunity to listen to a portion of the catalog before the season has passed me by, that doesn’t deter me from still getting excited when the new releases are announced.

Last year, a sentimental and humorous offering by JD McPherson completely won me over. Simply titled “Socks,” McPherson’s debut Christmas release was full of retro-sounding arrangements that reflected a simpler time when children really did believe in Santa.

Ana Gasteyer’s “Sugar & Booze” is the early front-runner this year. The new album from the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member features a modern take on the swing and jazz sounds of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Gasteyer’s performance is a pleasurable treat as she smoothly navigates a delightful assortment of original tracks with a number of holiday classics sprinkled in for good measure.

On the title track, Gasteyer expresses a fondness for snowmen, turtle doves, Christmas tree lights, mistletoe and holly. However, she coyly confesses that the best part of the holidays is hitting the sweets and sauce.

“Secret Santa” is another clever original that features Gasteyer with Maya Rudolph spilling the beans about a recent trip to Havana in search of the perfect Christmas gift, where she clumsily slips on a banana and wakes up in a cabana sipping rum and orange Fanta.

Traditional favorites like ”Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and “Sleigh Ride” set a seasonal mood by stirring up images of spending quality time with friends and family by a cozy fire with a winter wonderland magically appearing outside as snow blankets the ground in a covering of sparkling white.

Gasteyer adds a little sex appeal and over-the-top dramatics to “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and provides an abundance of energy and charisma to “The Man with the Bag.”

“Children Go Where I Send Thee” finds Gasteyer delivering the true reason for the season on this moving arrangement about faith, hope and joy.

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, remember that it’s never too early to begin preparing for Christmas. One thing that is certain, “Sugar & Booze” will help to make the yuletide gay.

Clint Rhodes is the Herald-Standard music reviewer. He can be reached at clinton43@me.com.

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