REVIEW: Michelle Malone and The Hot Toddies “Toddie Time” Will Find a Home in Hearts and Minds


Michelle Malone and The Hot Toddies : Toddie Time SBS Records

Thanksgiving has come and gone so I can shirk my grinchesque, ba humbug attitude and embrace the Christmas season. And what better way to wrap yourself up in the moment than a new release from indie-Americana stalwart Michelle Malone. If you aren’t familiar with Michelle’s work, you should be. Her resume, deservedly long and storied, reads like a who’s who in music. I tell you that to tell you this – Toddie Time, the new release on her own SBS Records is sure to find a home in the hearts and playlists of those of you seeking the perfect record to celebrate the holiday season.

I know what you may be thinking – Do we really need another album of Christmas classics with a “new” interpretation? Can we just go back to the same old songs we have been listening to year after year? The answers (in order) are a resounding YES and then NO! Take my word you need this six song offering to keep the season festive. Malone along with Doug Kees on guitar, Robby Handley on upright bass and Chris Burroughs on drums, deliver compelling renditions of these Christmas chestnuts which are sure to find a home in almost anyone’s collection. I am more accustomed to hearing Malone take on rootsy, bluesy type material where the grit and growl in her voice really shine so I was intrigued to hear how she approached the songs she chose.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” kicks off the collection and she immediately had me. The jazzy guitar stylings grab you but it is the smoothness of Malone’s voice that draws you in. “Zat You Santa Claus” starts out like the Stray Cats are about to rumble before Malone cuts in, vocals all slinky and sexy on a track that Buster Poindexter almost built an entire career around. When you can take a classic from Louis Armstrong and make it your own, you’ve really accomplished something.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is one of those songs that always hits me. Malone and company do it justice, with a laid back, easy approach. The guitar work shines and Malone’s vocals again effortlessly steal the show. Sparse, yet oddly full, “Counting Blessings” playfully weaves Malone’s enchanting vocals in between Kees’ perfectly timed notes. “Blue Christmas” kicks it up a notch and “Jingle Bells” closes the collection on a high note.

As I am sure you can tell I really liked this album. I appreciate that it was not a paint by numbers affair and it seemed like real effort was put into the tracks. The arrangement, the inflections, small flourishes here and there all came across as though genuine thought and care were part of the process. Michelle Malone is a treasure and I am beyond pleased to now include Toddie Time in my ever evolving Christmas album collection. 

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