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Norine Braun

December Falls

Review by Gary Hill

This is the new holiday set from Norine Braun. I previously reviewed another release from her, and I would say that this is definitely the superior set. Everything about this works so well. Don't expect standard holiday songs, though. These have a tendency to be rock, bluesy and jazz based. They are always effective. Everything here is good, but some of it crosses the boundary into the "great" zone.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Solstice (This Day the Sun Stands Still)
A cool jazz groove with a proggy angle is on hand here. This is energized and classy. It's a great way to start the album in style. There is a cool nearly spoken, poetic movement later in the track that's decidedly artsy. The cut has some killer saxophone in a jazzy jam beyond that.
I Saw 3 Ships
This is built on a cool groove. There is a reggae rap built into the tune. Jazz and rock seem to merge on this fun piece.
Mistletoe Blues
I dig the echoey kind of jazzy blues sound on this number. The harmonica later really reinforces that blues angle. The tune rocks with a lot of style and charm. It gets quite rocking before it's over.
The Winter After Elvis Died
Piano brings this into being. Saxophone wails as the other instruments join. This has a mainstream rock vibe it, but with a lot of jazz in the mix. This is a classy and powerful piece of music. It's one of my favorites here.
Poinsettia Pearl
This has a healthy helping of old-school rock and roll in the mix. It's a powerhouse tune that's a lot of fun. I really love the guitar solo on this thing.
Blue Christmas
After a reference to Elvis Presley earlier, we get this tune now. It's a cover of the song that is associated with Mr. Presley. It works well here, and definitely fits with the rest of the album.
December Falls
The title track starts with a voice accompanied only by the sounds of wind. Some guitar rises up after a few lines and we're eventually taken into a cool rock arrangement that has a bluesy kind of edge. There is a lot of Americana here, and the echoey guitar really reinforces that. This is definitely a highlight of the set, making it a great choice for title track. It's so cool and really grows.
Put A Wreathe On It Blues
This is another standout tune. It is built around a killer retro blues rocking sound. The harmonica brings a lot of magic to the proceedings, but everything about this is just so classy and powerful.
O Christmas Tree
While this is the classic Christmas tune, you probably haven't heard it like this before. This is a hard rocking grind version of it. The guitar sound is tastefully distorted. There is a bluegrass kind of clean slide guitar solo built into the tune, too. It's perhaps more of a blues rocker than straight rock tune, but it definitely has some crunch in the mix.
Last Christmas
The Wham! song gets an intriguing rendition here. It starts with just vocals, and then works out to more of a classic rock and roll vibe. The vocal performance on this is so powerful.
Christmas Bells
This starts, appropriately, with bells. The tune works out to a jazzy kind of arrangement that still has rock sounds in the mix. It's a fun and classy cut. The bells return at the end to take the track out.
Silent Night
Here we get a bit of a rock and roll take on the holiday classic. This is another strong tune on a disc full of strong music. It's a greaty to end things.
 
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