Debbie Davis is making up for lost time with her third album, Oh Crap, It’s Christmas, and a live performance December 21 at Café Istanbul. The lusty, wisecracking blonde chanteuse envisions the presentation as “something between a Perry Como Christmas variety show and a Muppets show—something homey and sincere but also silly and fun.”
Davis and her husband Matt Perrine decided to finish the album, which has been in the making since 2002, earlier this year. When Harry Shearer told Davis he and his wife, Judith Owen, had decided not to do their annual Christmas show, Davis jumped in with both feet.
“It seemed like there was a void,” she says. “I’m cynical about a lot of things, but I can’t be cynical about this.”
The album project began as a way for Davis and Perrine to make a personalized gift for their families.
“In 2002 we were flat broke, which is not unusual for musicians,” she says. “We didn’t have much to give at Christmas so we got some of our friends to come and play for free and we went to Mike West’s studio in the lower Ninth Ward and spent a day recording six or seven tracks. They were lovely and under-rehearsed and we couldn’t recreate what happened in that room that day if we tried. We called it “Oh Crap, It’s Christmas,” a sentiment people can relate to because it either takes them by surprise, or they go through it grudgingly because it’s more than they can deal with. Christmas can be overwhelming.
“It grew from there. Katrina came and we evacuated to New Jersey. We were going to gather all our friends who’d evacuated to the area and some of the people I grew up with and make a fabulous record that would make us all whole again.”
Then Brian O’Neill, Perrine’s partner in Bonerama, died and he had to return to New Orleans for the funeral.
“I recorded one song by myself,” recalls Davis. “Matt says you can hear my heart breaking on the track. Christmas is not always happy. It’s a hard time for some people. I personally love Christmas, but a lot of people are isolated at Christmas, and that year I was isolated from my own life. It was December 2005 and I wasn’t able to be where my heart was, in New Orleans.”
Other sessions took place in 2008 and 2009 before the album was finished this year. The December 21 show will feature Davis and Perrine, Susan Cowsill, Banu Gibson, the Pfister Sisters, Aurora Nealand, Alex McMurray, Matt Rhody, Richard Scott, Josh Paxton … “and more,” Davis promises with a wink.