Nick Lowe’s new “Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family” is my favorite 2013 holiday album for many reasons. Although the song selection is smart, it’s Lowe’s confident voice of experience that makes this collection shine so brightly, much like the Star of Bethlehem.
And when I say ‘voice of experience,’ perhaps I should instead call it Lowe’s undeniable voice of cool. He’s not Linus attempting to teach heathens the true meaning of Christmas. Rather, he’s like that hepcat uncle that breaks out a guitar on Christmas Eve and suddenly turns the holiday into a memorable musical hootenanny.
Lowe combines rockabilly with a touch of vintage ska for an organ/guitar saturated workout with “The North Pole Express,” then he swings it oh so fab daddy-o for “Hooves on the Roof.” On the latter, Lowe sounds like he’s leaning against a lamppost, fedora barely obscuring his eyes (Frank Sinatra style) as he snaps his fingers and lays down hip holiday verse.
This St. Nick may not be a preacher, but he sure is convincing when he leads the rock gospel choir-ette in the singing of “I Was Born in Bethlehem” and “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” He even rocks out during “Silent Night,” which might have been blasphemy in lesser hands, but rocks out effectively with Lowe in charge.
The track getting most attention off this album is “Christmas at the Airport,” which would have fit perfectly in the film "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," had it been created way back then. Christmas waits for no man, so if you happen to be in transit, sometimes you just need to make the best of a bad situation.
If one too many version of “Feliz Navidad” and “The Little Drummer Boy” have tested your faith in Christmas music, simply let the this voice of cool experience restore your hope.