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A Christmas Kind of Town

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Album Review

On the surface Marah might not seem the likeliest band to do a Christmas record. They seem so tough and hard-bitten most of the time. Then after some thought you realize that they have exactly the kind of heart of gold it takes to deliver a good holiday record. And indeed A Christmas Kind of Town is a wonderful holiday album. On it the band tackles Yuletide nuggets, throw in a few great originals, and tie it together with a bunch of cute and silly interludes. On the classic front, they turn in a suitably sweet "Christmas Time Is Here," give "Silver Bells" a heart-tugging doo wop treatment, romp through a loose "Holly Jolly Christmas" with suitably square backing vocals, wobble through a boozy "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with guest vocalist Christine Smith, careen wildly through "Auld Lange Syne" like a partly sober Pogues, and imbue "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with some late-night blues. Impressive stuff but the originals are even better. "New York Is a Christmas Kind of Town" is a laid-back tune with cute-as-pie lyrics and a melt-in-your-mouth delivery. You can close your eyes and almost hear somebody like Dean Martin belting it out on a holiday special. "Counting the Days ('Til Christmas)" is a bounding near-polka singalong with accordions, sleigh bells, and a lovely vocal bridge, and "Christmas with the Snow" is a light-as-fresh-snow rocker with female lead vocals by the Shalitas and the kind of melody that you want to give to everyone on your Xmas list. All three songs sound like they should be future Christmas classics for bands to cover in 20 years. Hopefully enough people will hear this utterly heartwarming and joyous album to make that a possibility


Formed: 1993

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Philadelphia's eclectic, rootsy rock quartet Marah consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist/banjoist David Bielanko, guitarist/vocalist/harmonica player Serge Bielanko, bassist Danny Metz, and drummer Ronnie Vance. Dave Bielanko, Metz, and Vance formed the group in 1993; brother Serge was so impressed with their sound that he wanted to join Marah, which he did in 1995. The band found an unofficial fifth member in producer/engineer Paul Smith, who was similarly taken with Marah's Replacements-meets-Springsteen...
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