Tucson based Calexico has released ‘Seasonal Shift’, which is a cross between the traditional Christmas album with some covers from the likes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono (guess which song that will be….) and Tom Petty along with a potpourri of seasonally flavoured original efforts which are aided by appearances from artists such as Nigerien Tuareg singer/guitarist Bombino and Guatemalan Jazz/Blues/Soul singer Gaby Moreno.
The album kicks off ‘Hear the Bells’, a track which, with its typical Calexico mix of horns, strings and liberal doses of pedal steel guitar, would be fully at home on any Calexico album except for the festive theme which binds this album together. A good start then, but its followed with a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Christmas All Over Again’ which is about as bland a cover of this track as it would be possible to create – and that track to track unevenness is the issue with this album as it then jumps to the jaunty ‘Mi Burrito Sabanero’, a Venezuelan children’s festive favourite (think Little Donkey) with Gaby Moreno’s vocals just about lifting it above what may otherwise have been a somewhat clichéd rendition.
The title track ‘Seasonal Shift’ takes a philosophical look at this time of year with thoughts of dysfunctional families coming together and with more than a passing nod to the utterly depressing year that has been 2020 as the final lyrics take us out of the song “Here it goes ’round the bend, The year that would never end, Gonna wave bye bye”. The darker ‘Nature’s Domain’ is up next followed by a cover of the Lennon/Oko classic ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ which, while pleasant, barely deviates from the original.
Joey Burns and John Convertino are to be applauded for trying to create a seasonal album that pays homage to the time of the year, yet still manages to recognise that 2020 has been a wholly miserable time for almost everyone. They never get dragged into the pit of misery, a trap that would have been so easy to do when looking back at the last 12 months of 2020 but instead have created a cheery vibe throughout an album that is largely a seasonal elixir of good happy fun and varied tunes. That is exhibited perfectly on the final track ‘Mi Burrito Sabanero Reprise, which sees multiple families from around the globe sending seasonal cheer to everyone. A fitting way to end the album.