Christmas records can be a risky business – some become legendary but so many others should come with a gift receipt. Listening to ‘Christmas On A Greyhound Bus‘ from Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters is like opening a present from someone whose gifts never disappoint. Platt is a superb songwriter, a skill she applies to Yuletide without descending into the sentimentality trap that claims so many artists on the same mission. She and the Honeycutters continue to play their own brand of traditional country with just enough festive decoration.
Willie Nelson’s ‘Pretty Paper’ opens this short collection. Like the light twinkling on a Christmas tree, Platt’s voice glistens but underneath that “pretty paper, pretty pencils, ribbon of blue” is a parcel of lost love among all the fun of Christmas. Solo, with a mournful pedal steel, Platt offers a worthwhile reminder that rejection hurts a lot more when everyone else is having fun.
Picking up the tempo we join a group of travellers. These people are on the move for various reasons, some seeking simple pleasures, “All I want from Santa is a Sol and lime”. It is typical of Platt’s songwriting dexterity to put the Christmas story of journey into a contemporary context.
Another cover, this time from Buck Owens, ‘Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy’ is a jaunty honky tonk that asks if the man in red exists or not. Despite a few searching questions, Santa looks like returning down the chimney next year. ‘One For The Ages’ demonstrates what a pedal steel can do for a carol. In this case, Honeycutter Matt Smith’s deft touch enhances another muse about those for whom Christmas is not all warmth and good cheer. The EP wraps up apace with a perfectly reasonable question originally posed by Nick Lowe, ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding’. Again, Platt shows that it is possible to write thoughtfully about Christmas without plunging into sentimentality.
To any Americana fan whose first reaction to a Christmas release is apprehension, ‘Christmas on a Greyhound Bus’ will bring a deep sense of musical peace and goodwill.