Friday, December 4, 2020

A Gulf Coast Christmas - featuring Mike Zito, Albert Castiglia, The Proven Ones and more

In the bleak midwinter – and here today it’s been pretty bleak – it’s always good to have a source of good cheer to hand, isn’t it?  A glass of mulled wine say, maybe a mince pie?  And now perhaps A Gulf Coast Christmas, the Christmas blues compilation that’s been released by Mike Zito and the rest of the Gulf Coast Records roster.
Now, an album like this obviously isn’t intended to be any kind of magnum opus or “statement”.
Somebody stole Albert's Christmas - call the cops!
Pic by Pat Gleeson
It’s meant to be fun, and should be judged in those terms.  So is this shebang be something a blues fan would be happy to find in their Christmas stocking?  Yes, is the answer, even if in the course of 16 tracks from a range of artists the quality varies a bit.  But hey, let’s focus on the most attractive lights on the Christmas tree, eh?
In that context Mike Zito leads the way, with a brace of tunes bookending the album.  First up is the original ‘All I Got For Christmas Is The Blues’, on which he delivers a quintessential blues lyric about everything going wrong that’s wry right down to its ho-ho-ho outro, accompanied by a grinding rhythm section, Christmas piano decorations, a smile-inducing tumbling turnaround, and a knuckle-dusting slide solo.  And he closes the album with Chuck Berry’s ‘Run Rudolph’, which naturally should be a breeze after his Chuck Berry tribute album last year.  He duly nails it with a reindeer-hoof-pounding take that’s all thumping drums, a fuzzed-up boogie guitar riff worthy of Status Quo, tinkling piano remarks courtesy of Lewis Stephens (I’m guessing), and a rockin’ guitar solo.
The front end of the album is stacked with more goodies, kicking off with Albert Castiglia getting all lonesome on the slow blues of ‘Somebody Stole My Xmas’, spreading out on a classy extended solo that takes in some tasty diversions without ever going OTT or losing sight of the song.  Meanwhile Kevin Burt’s ‘Please Mr Santa Claus’ is a funkier, mid-paced affair, with his rich groan of a voice decorated by some nifty harp breaks as he tells another tale of – yep, you’ve guessed it, loneliness!  Well, if the blues can’t provide a artistic reminder that not everyone’s Christmas is a celebration, what can?  And at the other end of the album Sayer & Joyce take up the theme to good effect on the penultimate track, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’, with Charlotte Joyce delivering an aching vocal over chiming rhythm guitar, while Ron Sayer adds subtle guitar licks and ultimately a plaintive solo.
In between, highlights include The Proven Ones with ‘Blue Christmas’, and John ‘Blues’ Boyd and Lisa Andersen with ‘Merry Christmas Baby’.  The former is upbeat, jingle-jangling R’n’B, a fun party tune with plenty of boogie woogie piano to the fore from Anthony Geraci.  The latter is a different kind of fun, a slinky duet in the vein of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, all log fire and brandy – and guitar breaks courtesy of Kid Andersen.  Meanwhile Mark May and Miss Molly deliver a duet of a different hue on 'The Bluest Christmas', a soulful, Ray Charles-like bump’n’grind full of call and response, swinging horns, and piercing guitar injections from May.
There are also a couple of comic takes on the Nativity tale for variety.  LeRoux serve up an acoustic guitar and voice live recording 0f ‘Who Da Baby Daddy?’ that’s twinkingly tongue-in-cheek, while on ‘Christmas Is Cancelled’ Thomas Atlas gets lightly funky, with sparkling guitar and smooth vocals reminiscent of Robert Cray.
If you’d rather not have your festive musical fare dominated by all the usual suspects, then A Gulf Coast Christmas will provide an appealing soundtrack to keep you smiling through the Christmas cake and the turkey leftovers.


  1. I'm amazed that in the midst of all these mundane rehashes of Christmas songs you avoided the freshest, most unique one of all. You quess which one.

  2. I can't believe that among all these mundane rehashes of Christmas songs you ignored freshest,most unique one of all. You quess which one.