Squirrel Nut Zippers
Christmas Caravan (Mammoth Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Hot on the heels of a new full-length, the Zippers have decided to release ten songs to truly celebrate the holidays in style. Bringing in jazz and Dixieland influences from the 20's and 30's, SNZ's are always there to swing and sway you with their silky sounds. Forget those old Christmas albums, because here is one that is reminiscent of the old, but representative of the new.
"Winter Weather" is led by the beautiful voice of Katharine. A slow jazzy number, the piano drips like a leaky faucet through the song, while the horns smoothly flow through it like a sweet breeze of fresh of air. Tiptoeing percussion keeps a soft, steady backbone, while the guitar and bass crawl through with some faint notes to enrich the song. Ah...the sound of the Zippers makes it really feel like Christmas.
But what album (Christmas or not) would be complete without the Zipper's sense of humor. None of course, which makes "Indian Giver" a much-welcomed addition to the album. Mixing a rockin' blues beat with some upbeat jazz notes, all over the story of Indian givers on Christmas, the Zippers spike the punch and get the party going. Ending with a conversation between Santa and Mathus, the laughs just get stronger.
Keeping things swinging with a cover of "Sleigh Ride," they put a fresh sound to an old standard. The horn lines are big and brassy, giving off a very warm, inviting feeling to the listener. Brightening up any room the song is playing in, the Christmas joy is alive and kicking throughout this song. And, even though it is an instrumental jam, the band has provided you with the lyrics so you can sing along. Impress the family during Christmas as you front the Zippers...
Dipping into some country, "Gift of the Magi" trades off between male and female lead vocals. A sweet contrast, the tale they tell is sad and heartwarming. With the addition of Hawkeye Jordan's Mandolin and Andrew Bird's Violin, they let loose with a truly vibrant country sound, while still making it sound very Zipper-ish.
Ending with "Hanging Up My Stockings," the disc winds down with a slow, warm, and delicate folk-jazz number that brings out the love while you're listening to it (as it should...it's Christmas time!). But the disc isn't really over. Jumping into a dark tale, the hidden track quickly pops on and throws some quirky moves the listeners way.
Here is a holiday album that is destined to be a classic. Silky smooth, and full of love, laughs, and fun, the Zippers deliver a Christmas treat that will turn your family's Christmas party into a fun one that all parties in the family will enjoy. I'll give this disc an A+.