Music Review: 2AM CHRISTMAS EVE (White Owl Red)

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by Tony Frankel on November 24, 2020

in CD-DVD,Music


Sometimes with new Christmas music, I feel stuck between the old-fashioned, the gloopy and the irritating (anything that sounds like Disney Radio). We’ll always have the greats (Ella, Frank, Bing, Bette, Babs) singing the greats (the most popular Christmas music was written by Jewish men), but as with so much plasticized output in all genres these days, where is an original, heartfelt tune awash in poetry that is for everyone, not just the religious?

Welcome “2am Christmas Eve” from Josef McManus (alias: White Owl Red), the Singer/Songwriter from Portland who blurs in this song and his four albums the lines between Country, Rock, Folk, and Independent while retaining a homegrown Americana sound (some use “Alt-Country”). But it was the lyrics that first grabbed me:

Met her at a party, It was after 2am
Din’t ask her what she wanted, She didn’t ask me where I’d been
Won’t you take me home I just got to get out of these clothes
There ain’t nothing that you know / That’s gonna save us, from ourselves
Sitting at the table / Drinking whiskey with doctors and lawyers
They didn’t have the answers / They gave me cherries and some cake
Debutante sons and daughters, sat upright in their chairs
Wearing their holiday finest, their dogs had ribbons in their hairs
Won’t you take me home I just got to get out of these clothes
There ain’t nothing that you know / That’s gonna save us, from ourselves this Christmas Eve

Here is an artist capable of plumbing the depths of America’s soul without using the angry spittle we hear in so many of today’s protest songs. Did I say, “protest”? Well, some of his cuts do deal with social issues, but just being alive in America today IS a social issue. And I believe this is what McManus is exploring. I didn’t realize how slaked I was for meaty content until I recently heard the new Joni Mitchell Archives of previously unreleased material.

White Owl Red’s site states what I feel: He explores the messy complexity of contemporary culture and values with ferocity and vulnerability, embracing musical innovation without pandering to formula. He writes in his bio about his beginnings that he was “interested in the concept of finding the beauty in the imperfection and flaws in life while expressing that through my art, in contrast to the dominant culture cult-of-perfection.” Please support this artist on his site, and check out his albums Americana Ash, Naked and Falling, Afterglow, Existential Frontiers and, coming out in 2021, Running Blind.

Here’s another single Xmas Single, “Heartbreak for Christmas”: I’m ready for that Holiday Album now, Mr. McManus.

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