Marah, the Philadelphia-reared, New York-based rock band whose 2004 album 20,000 Streets Under the Sky drew comparisons - and secured support slots - with Bruce Springsteen, have firm attitudes about Christmas. In particular, they believe that Christmas music "sounds better played with pianos, banjos, acoustic guitars, sleigh bells and small cheap drum kits" - and while this is certainly true if you are the clan McGarrigle, it's a less reliable guide in Marah's case. Hearty rustic strumalongs of "Christmas Time's A Comin'" and "Auld Lang Syne" are fine up to a point, and there's a certain Pogue-ish charm to the rumbustious polka "Counting the Days ('Til Christmas)", but their better efforts are spoilt by the overall air of bogus bonhomie and the disingenuous fascination with "wassailing", which bandleader David Bielanko explains is "an old English term for a night on the town boozing it up with friends". The best tracks are the band's own "Christmas With the Snow", a simple but joyous exercise in stacked harmonies, and a soulful doowop R&B version of "Silver Bells" that's actually quite haunting.
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