I heard Jackson native Les Kerr perform "Christmas on the Coast" this summer during a gig at Hal & Mal's and, despite the poor timing (of course, musicians rarely have the luxury of recording Christmas songs during the holidays), I enjoyed the song then. On his new album of the same name, the "Christmas on the Coast" track features background vocals by the Jordanaires, which give the song some Johnny Cash ballad credibility. Overall, the song balances novelty and a familiar coastal country sound, adding something significant to the body of Christmas tunes we stick into our CD changers each year.
The rest of the album has some highlights, but you'll be punching "random" to scoot past a few tracks. Kerr's re-written "Jingle Bells (Christmas in New Orleans)" offers a lyric that works as well as one could expect when rewriting a traditional snow-sledding song to fit the Big Easy—it's cute, but kitschy. Kerr's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is a throwaway, and "Christmas by the Bar-B-Que" comes off the grill pinkish and warmed over.
Kerr's "On Christmas Eve" and "Wayfaring Stranger" are both well-executed guitar-heavy tracks that have an authentic roots sound Kerr should choose for his appearance on "A Prairie Home Companion" if Garrison Keiller comes calling.
The most confusing track is "Yes, Virginia," which features a tepid instrumental and the clacking of a Royal typewriter while Kerr reads Francis P. Church's "Yes, Virginia" editorial in a near monotone. Kerr gives the 1890s language little life or power, like a nervous deacon scooting through his scripture passage in the pulpit between hymns. If you happen to know how to program your CD changer, I'd recommend skipping this one after you've heard it once.
About five tracks bear up under repetition, and I've been humming "Christmas on the Coast" in the shower. Overall, though, for a little heartfelt warm winter cheer, Kerr's album mixes up well with the familiar songs that jingle through your head on crisp, cool days around this time every year.