Show Review: Original Christmas Music From The Mavericks, JD McPherson, and Sweet Lizzy Project Bring The Holidays Home

Show Reviews

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The Mavericks hosted their Hey! Merry Christmas! Holiday Concert Special on December 19th, featuring guests JD McPherson and Sweet Lizzy Project in an hour of festive music and occasional chat from Nashville, Tennessee. The show’s title comes from The Mavericks’ Christmas album of the same name released in 2018, and something The Mavericks’ guests had in common with them was the release of Christmas albums in recent years. JD McPherson released Socks in 2018, and Sweet Lizzy Project dropped their Christmas EP, And So This Is Christmas, a few weeks ago.

Aside from some very rocking, original Christmas music with Roots music flare, the stage set up, lighting, decorations, and even some of the band members’ clothing, were extremely festive while preserving a live show feel. With multiple camera angles, cut away video segments, interspersed musical sets, and very clear sound, the concert showed a lot of care and attention to detail for audiences at home. Hosted by Raul Malo of The Mavericks, with occasional messages from Gabriella Griffith, the evening also had an occasional theme, to make sure to check in with friends and loved ones at this time of the year, especially during the year that 2020 has been, and make sure to reach out for mental health needs. It was a salient reminder for us all, but especially in the music community, we need connection more than ever this holiday season.
The Mavericks opened with their song, “Hey! Merry Christmas,” following with their “One More Christmas” and “Christmas for Me Is You,” setting the tone, energy, and upbeat atmosphere of the show with multi-instrumental support. “Santa Does” broke into a bigger Rock feel, though, with brass and keys to close out their first segment of performance.

This segued into a performance of songs from And So This Is Christmas by Sweet Lizzy Project, highlighting the autobiographical aspect of their recent holiday songs. For the members of the band, coming to Nashville from Cuba to join the Mavericks’ label meant seeing snow for the first time and encountering many Christmas traditions that were far from their limited experiences growing up, and all of those impressions came out in “This Christmas I’m Not Going Home,” with lyrics like “Santa’s never been to where I come from.” Both Soul and Country traditions were audible in the song, taking on a reflective tone, but by the end a poweful guitar solo turned it into a Rock anthem. They played another original Christmas song, “It’s Christmas (Everything Will Be Alright)” which focused more on the relationships we build and how they are impacted by the holidays. This year, the song seems particularly apt looking for strength through love.

The Mavericks continued the performance with more of their original Christmas songs, including “It’s Christmas Without You”, “Santa Wants To Take You For a Ride” complete with a a shift to cooler purple lighting along with a swinging rhythm, and “I Have Wanted You (For Christmas)” to a gentle drifting of fake snow upon the stage. The song itself reinforced the upbeat Rockabilly undercurrents to the show and also highlighted how much modern Christmas songs are essentially love songs celebrating or mourning relationships.

Raul Malo took on an informal tone in a video segment conversation with JD McPherson and Ray Jacildo, where they agreed that doing the Christmas concert was a great idea because they’d do “anything to get out of the house.”  McPherson and Malo admitted that this year has meant the most time they’ve been at home in ten years, and probably the most time they have ever spent with their families. McPherson said that he and his band started a new record during the beginning of Covid, but after recording in LA last February and the beginning of Covid, he found that he couldn’t bring himself to work on music. That lasted for some time, but fortunately he’s been able to get moving again lately and they hope to have a new album out around Spring 2021. It’s something very relatable to a number of musicians, and probably to everyone, to have spent at least part of 2020 grappling with a sense of distance from creative work that had to be overcome.

JD McPherson played his band’s song “Hey, Skinny Santa” from their Christmas album, bringing in hints of Gospel, old Blues and Rockabilly, but with such a detailed homage to traditional music that it was hard to believe it was a new song. The amusing lyrics list all the foods that Santa needs to eat to get him fattened up in time for the holidays. The Mavericks joined in on the chorus and the clapping, and the song featured saxophone solos.

In another video segment, Malo, McPherson, and Jacildo talked about the origin and recording of the Socks Christmas album and the fact that musicians usually have to record holiday albums in the spring and summer when it can be hard to get those holiday feels flowing.

JD McPherson’s band then played “Every Single Christmas,” another celebratory love song that brings in plenty of seasonal description and Gabriela Griffith introduced Raul Malo performing, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” dedicating the performance to the armed forces, as it was originally written for them.

The Mavericks also performed “Christmas Time (Coming Round Again)” bringing in some powerful vocals with more of a Country style, and featuring a keyboard solo and an energetic drum outro. They finished off their set with the more traditional “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

For the finale of the show, all three bands joined together to perform a song led by Sweet Lizzy Project, and featured on their Christmas EP, John Lennon’s “Merry Christmas (War is Over).” Their lead singer, Lisset Diaz, sang in duet with Raul Malo, delivering some poignant and driven vocals and picking up on many of the themes in the song which feel so relevant right now. Along with drive came a sense of hope, though, through determination, which was a meaningful way to close the concert and a very challenging year, as well as the sense of community that the three bands created through collaborating on the final song of the show.

The entire show will be viewable at Nugs.TV from December 21st 2020 through January 16th 2021.




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